Tag Archives: premature baby

Breastmilk protects infants from antibiotic-resistant bacteria and improves preemies’ brain development

Via Pixabay/badarsk

A new study from the University of Helsinki showed that babies breastfed for at least six months have less antibiotic-resistant bacteria in their gut compared with infants breastfed for a shorter period of time. Moreover, the study showed that antibiotics used by mothers increased the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in infants.

Schematic by MeMed.

Schematic by MeMed.

Bacteria resistant to antibiotics are everywhere — including the human gut, regardless of whether a person has taken antibiotics or not. Antibiotic resistance (or antimicrobial resistance, a.k.a. AMR) is one of the main global threats to public health. Being colonized by opportunistic pathogens carrying antibiotic resistance genes (ARGs) increases the risk of acquiring infections that are difficult to treat. Worldwide, an estimated 214,000 neonatal deaths each year are due to septic infections caused by antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Bacteria resistant to antibiotics are transmitted between individuals similar to how bacteria, viruses and other pathogens are: through direct contact or through food.

In this recently completed study, the researchers investigated the amount and quality of bacteria resistant to antibiotics in breast milk and the gut of mother-infant pairs, resulting in three important findings.

  1. Infants who were breastfed for at least six months had a smaller number of resistant bacteria in their gut than babies who were breastfed for a shorter period or not at all. This shows that breastfeeding seems to be able to protect infants from such bacteria.
  2. Antibiotic treatment of mothers during delivery increased the amount of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the gut of infants. The effect was still noted even six months post-delivery and post-treatment.
  3. Breast milk also contains bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and the mother is likely to pass these bacteria on to the child through milk. However, breastfeeding reduced the number of resistant bacteria in the infant gut — an indication of the benefits of breastfeeding for infants.

— 8 months —
The baby now weighs about 4 3/4 pounds. His layers of fat are filling him out, making him rounder, and his lungs are well developed.

Another study by investigators at the University of Edinburgh reported that babies born before their due date (premature infants, also known as preemies) show better brain development when fed breast milk rather than formula. Premature birth has been linked to an increased risk of problems with learning and thinking skills in later life, which are thought to be linked to alterations in brain development.


The investigators studied magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans from 47 babies who had been born before 33 weeks gestation with scans that took place when they reached term-equivalent age. The team also collected information about how the infants had been fed while in intensive care — either formula milk or breast milk from either the mother or a donor. They found that babies who exclusively received breast milk for at least three-quarters of the days they spent in the hospital showed improved brain connectivity compared with others. The effects were greatest in babies who were fed breast milk for a greater proportion of their time spent in intensive care. The study suggests that brain development in the weeks after preterm birth is improved in babies who receive greater amounts of breast milk.

Image credits: Public Domain Pictures.

Breast milk is the perfect nutrition for a baby, providing all the proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes that a young body needs to stay healthy. Unfortunately, rates of breastfeeding and breastmilk consumption are well below desired levels. Only 40% of infants worldwide are breastfed exclusively until they are at least six months old, as the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends. The reasons are complex, but in many countries, lack of education, together with aggressive marketing by makers of baby formula, has contributed to a decline in breastfeeding.

Premature baby born

Prematurity is the leading cause of death in infants. What you need to know

Premature baby born

Image: Pixabay

Today is World Prematurity Day –  a global effort to raise awareness about the deaths and disabilities due to premature births. Each year around the world, 15 million babies are delivered ahead of term and 1 million children die before their fifth birthday from related complications. Some who make it past this dangerous threshold might get to live with serious disabilities.

A baby is considered premature if born before 37 weeks in the womb. Pakistan, India and Nigeria account for more than 60 per cent of the total number of babies born prematurely each year and 50 percent of the deaths due to preterm complications, but the U.S. doesn’t favor too well either. Each year, 1 out of every 10 infants is born prematurely in the United States.  March of Dimes,  an international organization focused on making sure every baby is born healthy and full term, rated the U.S. as mediocre when averting premature terms comes. Some states got the lowest grade possible.

What causes premature birth

There are a slew of factors that can lead to a baby delivered before term. These include:

  • Having a very full and stretched womb (uterus). Unfortunately, this is most common when the mother is carrying twins or more.
  • Cervical weakness, or a short cervical length. A sonographer can pick up these abnormalities as early as mid-pregnancy.
  • A history of spontaneous premature birth.
  • A bacterial infection in the bag containing the waters or in the amniotic fluid itself.
  • Your waters breaking early.
  • Heavy bleeding.
  • Some abnormalities of the womb.
  • Emotional problems.
  • Smoking and drugs, particularly cocaine.
  • Being overweight or underweight.
  • Being older (past 32 years of age).
  • IVF induced pregnancies.

Making sure a mother is as healthy as she can be, both physically, mentally and emotionally, is the best way to avert a premature birth. Sometimes, doctors can anticipate a pre-term birth. In these cases they can take action like progesterone therapy or low-dose aspirin for women at high risk of preeclampsia, a condition associated with preterm birth.  If it happens, intensive care is required especially for those babies born very early (before 28 weeks). In poor regions of the world where access to medical care is limited, if not absent altogether, experts advise other caring methods like kangaroo mother technique, which involves immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby. This keeps the baby warm and keeps the mother’s attention on her baby, which prompts her to feed the baby more often.

To raise awareness for  World Prematurity Day, there are various rallies held through the US and elsewhere. The Empire State Building in New York will be lit in purple, the official colour of World Prematurity Day. Similarly, the Bosophorus Bridge in Turkey and the Heidelberg Castle in Germany will also turn purple tonight.

From the March of Dimes:

  • Prematurity is the No. 1 cause of death in infants
  • The premature birth rate has risen by 36% over the last 25 years
  • Prematurity costs $26 Billion nationwide
  • November is Prematurity Awareness Month