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White Matter Injury in Preterm Infants: Could Human Milk Play a Role in Its Prevention?

Kotey, Francesca O. BA, BSN; Spatz, Diane L. PhD, RN-BC, FAAN

Section Editor(s): Ikuta, Linda

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e31827bfead
Foundations in Newborn Care

Human milk has been found to be beneficial for the development of all newborns. It is protective during the development of the gastrointestinal tract, important in neurologic development, immune system function, and nourishment. Human milk has a number of components that aid in the anti-inflammatory process and free radical reduction and is a building block for neurologic development. Cerebral white matter injury is a common occurrence in preterm infants. Results of this injury can be seen into early childhood and throughout the life of the individual. White matter injury most frequently occurs because of hypoxia and the inflammatory process, which often results in the injury of myelinating oligodendrites. This article proposes the potential importance of human milk in slowing and preventing cerebral white matter injury because of the components in human milk that affect the inflammatory and free radical reduction processes. It also proposes its ability to provide nutrients essential to myelin development.

University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia.

Correspondence: Francesca O. Kotey, BA, BSN, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 418 Curie Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (

This study was written with the resources and support of School of Nursing at the University of Pennsylvania.

The authors and CE planners have disclosed that they have no financial relationships related to this article.

© 2013 National Association of Neonatal Nurses