Kristy Wright's son, Jai, has been living in the NICU after being born 13 weeks early. After three months, he's finally breast-feeding on his own. He's come a long way.
"He's now 5-pounds, 12-ounces," Kristy said.
Getting proper nutrition is critical for premature babies to grow well. That's why doctors at Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center want to make sure preemies are getting what they need. So they launched a study to analyze breast milk.
"That will give us the breakdown of fat, total protein and carbohydrate concentration in the breast milk for this sample," said Dr. Charles Simmons of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.
It can analyze all that in a minute.
Breast milk averages about 20 calories per ounce. But after testing more than 200 samples, doctors are finding breast milk can vary from as low as 14 calories up to 24.
"We're finding that 10-to-20 percent of the samples would fall low in a range where we likely would recommend supplementation," Simmons said.
Kristy is one of the moms taking part in the breast milk study.
"It's really important, I think, that women in my situation do everything that we can to help the doctors within this field," she said.
In the study's next phase, doctors will add nutritional supplements to some preemies' breast milk to see if it leads to quicker weight gain and shorter hospital stays.
Doctors say improving a premature baby's growth rate is critical because those infants struggling with weight gain are often delayed in their neurological development.
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