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New Tech Helps Analyze and Bolster Breast Milk for Preemies

What if a nutrient label for breast milk existed? A new system at Children’s Colorado is making one; helping doctors discern the macronutrients in human milk so it can be supplemented for baby’s needs.
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By Wyndi Kappes, Associate Editor
Published July 28, 2022
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Image: BigPixel Photo/Shutterstock

A new breast milk analyzer in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Children’s Hospital Colorado (Children’s Colorado) is revolutionizing premium nutrition for premature babies. While breast milk has long been established as highly beneficial for baby, for the advanced nutritional needs of preemies, mom’s milk sometimes lacks the specific macronutrients baby needs.

But what if a nutrient label for breast milk existed? What if doctors could pinpoint exactly how to supplement human milk with other necessary nutrients for baby? A new system at Children’s Colorado is now making the impossible possible.

Twice a week, the lactation team analyzes a parent’s milk using the system. They enter the macronutrients of the milk into baby’s records, where a dietitian reads the results and then fortifies the milk based on its makeup and the baby’s needs.

“Proper nutrition is one of the most important things for preterm babies, especially sick ones. For many years, we have used standard fortification to support their development. Now, we are able to provide a custom approach to feeding our NICU babies,” Kirsten Halstead, MBA, RN, IBCLC, clinical manager of lactation support services at Children’s Colorado, said in a press release.

The impact of this special supplementation can have big benefits. “Key indicators of healthy development from head circumferences to lean muscle mass are improved when babies have the exact nutrients they need. Plus, there is a decrease in issues such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia and retinopathy of prematurity,” said Halstead.

Outside of helping baby grow and develop, this specialized nutrition can also help neonatal caretakers spot bigger issues. If baby is getting the exact nutrients they need to thrive, and they still aren’t growing, it points to other systematic problems like baby not being able to absorb nutrients correctly.

Overall, Halstead and providers at Children’s Colorado’s state-of-the-art human milk lab hope this new technology will “help their tiniest patients get their best possible start at life,” and that their work will help pave the way for other hospitals to bring this technology to their NICUs.

If you are looking to boost your own breast milk supply, check out these trusted supplements that may help you increase your output so you can bless baby with the good stuff more often.

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