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Breast Milk Study

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Kristy Wright's son Jai has been living in the NICU after being born 13 weeks early. After three months, he's finally breastfeeding on his own.

"He's come a long way. I mean two pounds, four ounces."

"He's now five pounds, 12 ounces."

Getting proper nutrition is critical for premature babies to grow well. That's why doctors at Maxine Dunitz Children's Health Center in Los Angeles 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," says Dr. Charles Simmons.

"And it can analyze all of that in a minute?"

"Exactly."

Breast milk (is supposed to) average 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 10-20% of the samples would fall in a low range where were likely would recommend supplementation."

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."

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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