These studies explore the effects of breastfeeding and breastmilk on necrotizing enterocolitis.
Impact of optimised breastfeeding on the costs of necrotizing enterocolitis in extremely low birthweight infants
This study found that, among extremely low birthweight (ELBW) infants, not being fed predominantly human milk was associated with an increased risk of necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). Researchers concluded that efforts to support milk production by mothers of ELBW infants may prevent infant deaths and reduce costs.
Breastfeeding and reduced risk of NEC
Researchers explored the impact of breastfeeding on the risk of Necrotising Enterocolitis (NEC) in extremely low birthweight (ELBW) infants. They found that infants who were exclusively formula fed or received a mixed diet were at a higher risk of developing NEC compared with breastfed infants.
Possible mechanism by which breastmilk protects against neonatal necrotising enterocolitis
Interleukin (IL)-8, a proinflammatory cytokine, plays an important role in the pathophysiology of NEC. Results from this study showed that breastmilk dramatically suppressed the IL-1beta-induced activation of the IL-8 gene promoter by inhibiting the activation pathway of NF-kappaB. The authors conclude that breastmilk could be protective and therapeutic in neonates with NEC by inhibiting the activation pathway of NF-kappaB.
Minekawa R, Takeda T, Sakata M, Hayashi M, Isobe A, Yamamoto T, Tasaka K, Murata Y (2004) Human breast milk suppresses the transcriptional regulation of IL-1beta-induced NF-kappaB signaling in human intestinal cells. Am J Physiol Cell Physiol. 2004 Nov;287(5):C1404-11. Epub 2004 Jun 30.
Breastmilk protects against NEC
A total of 926 preterm infants were studied, 51 of whom developed NEC. Exclusively formula-fed infants were 6 to 10 times more likely to develop NEC than those who received breastmilk. Although NEC is rare in babies over 30 weeks gestation, it was 20 times more common if the baby had received no breastmilk.
Lucas A & Cole TJ (1990). Breast milk and neonatal necrotising enterocolitis. Lancet 336: 1519-1522. [Abstract]