The Value of Human Milk in the NICU: Cognitive and Neurodevelopmental Effects of Human Milk in Preterm Infants

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  • Credit Hours
  • Outline



Infants born prematurely have a significantly higher risk of neurological disabilities when compared to infants born at term. These risks are inversely proportional to infant birth weight and gestational age at birth: the smaller and more preterm the infant, the greater the risk. Explored is the relationship between human milk feedings, central nervous system development, and outcomes in term and preterm infants. Of particular interest are the dose-response relationships associated with early human milk feedings in the NICU and intelligence, cognitive abilities and brain anatomy later in life. Several current research studies are summarized.

1 Hour 0 Minutes
Course ID

Credit Hours

  • Nursing - 1.0 Contact Hours


Section One:

  • Discuss research outcomes addressing the effects of human milk feedings in the neonatal intensive care unit on cognitive skills and behavioral ratings of extremely low birth weight infants.
  • Identify challenges common to studies of cognitive development and infant feeding.
  • Explain the concept of dose-response in relation to human milk and neurological outcomes.

Section Two:

  • Compare research results of cognitive development in term and preterm infants who received breastmilk in the first year of life.
  • Discuss the physiology of fetal and infant brain development in relation to gestation at birth.
  • Identify components in human milk that contribute to infant brain growth and their mechanisms of action.

Section Three:

  • Identify gender differences in child brain development and the function of white and grey brain matter.
  • Discuss the differences between preterm boys and girls and their term counterparts.
  • Evaluate possible physiologic rationale for the effects of early human milk feedings on brain development and IQ seen in adolescence.

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