Enriched formula has lasting benefits for preemies

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Infants born prematurely at very low birth weights who are fed a special enriched formula, rather than standard formula, show better growth and bone mineral content during the first 2 months after hospital discharge, according to a study from France.

The beneficial effects demonstrated in the present study and previous studies support the recommendation of feeding very low birth weight infants enriched “preterm” formula for a relatively short period, at least 2 months after discharge, the study team concludes.

Dr. Jean-Charles Picaud from Hopital Arnaud de Villeneuve, Montpellier and colleagues studied 49 preterm infants, born at 33 weeks gestation or earlier, weighing less than 1750 grams at birth.

These infants were fed either enriched preterm formula or standard “term” formula for the first 2 months following discharge. During the next 2 months, all infants were fed the standard term formula.

During the 2-month period after discharge, gains in body weight were significantly higher in infants fed the preterm formula, the researchers report.

Body weight at discharge and 2 months later were 1989 grams and 4533 grams, respectively, in the preterm formula group, compared with 2009 grams and 4144 grams, respectively, in the term formula group.

Gains in head circumference, but not length, were also significantly higher in the preterm formula fed infants.

At 4 months after hospital discharge, body weight was 6139 grams in the preterm formula group compared with 5540 grams in the term formula group. Bone mineral content was also significantly higher at 4 months in the preterm formula group than in the term formula group.

Moreover, the effects of preterm formula feeding produced lasting effects on growth that are known to be beneficial for long-term development, the investigators say.

SOURCE: The Journal of Pediatrics, November 2008.