Reduced Necrotizing Enterocolitis after an Initiative to Promote Breastfeeding and Early Human Milk Administration

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Introduction:We sought to reduce the incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) in premature infants (PI) by fostering the postnatal establishment of protective intestinal bacteria through early administration of human milk (HM) and probiotics.Methods:A multidisciplinary team implemented an initiative to support breastfeeding (BF) and provide early postnatal supplemental donor human milk (DHM) and probiotics to PI. Interventions included process improvements in milk preparation, storage, and fortification. PI admitted to our NICU between 2006 and 2015 were monitored for feeding of HM, DHM, and preterm formula (PF), frequency of early feedings, and incidence of NEC.Results:Retrospective review of 2557 cases revealed post-initiative increases in the percentage of PI receiving HM (91.5% to 96.1%), HM within 48 hours of birth (75% to 90.6%), and DHM (17.7% to 71.9%). The percentage of infants receiving feedings on day one increased from 23.9% to 44.6% while the percentage receiving PF within the first 72 hours declined (31.2% to 10.3%). The NEC rate declined from 4.1% to 0.4%. Reduction in NEC occurred despite a simultaneous increase in perinatal antibiotic exposure and the universal but late administration of bovine HM fortifier. The improvement associated with the decrease in NEC included initiation of probiotic administration, a reduction in PF feeding, and improvements in milk preparation, storage, and fortification processes.Conclusions:Early exclusive feedings of HM and avoidance of PF together with probiotics and milkhygiene may decrease NEC in PI. Neither brief perinatal antibiotic exposure nor late introduction of bovine fortifiers appears detrimental in this context.

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