Breastfeeding helps premature babies’ hearts to grow, study finds

image.jpegPremature babies often have smaller hearts but breastfeeding helps them grow stronger CREDIT: ALAMY

Sarah Knapton, science editor
14 JUNE 2016 • 5:02AM
Breast is best for premature babies, after a study showed the hearts of preterm children were larger than those who had been bottle fed.
The hearts of babies born early are often smaller than full term babies, with smaller chambers, thicker walls and reduced function.

It is thought that those abnormalities occur in the first few months after birth, so scientists at Oxford University wanted to find out if breast feeding made a difference to development.

They invited back 102 adults who had been enrolled in a study of premature babies in 1982 to check how their hearts had developed as well as recruiting an extra 102 people who were born preterm.

Those who had been breastfed had ventricles – the large chambers in the heart – which were nearly 10 per cent larger than bottle-fed babies. The hearts of breastfed babies also beat more strongly.