AbstractGiven its unique nutritional and functional advantages, human milk (HM) should be considered as the first choice for the nutrition of all infants, including preterm newborns. Since its protein, mineral and energy contents are not suitable to meet the high needs of very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants, HM should be fortified for these components. Fortification of HM is an important nutritional intervention in order to provide appropriate nutritional intake and appropriate growth. The standard fortification strategy has yielded inadequate protein intakes, resulting in slower growth as compared to preterm formulas. Improvement of outcomes depends on new fortification strategies, considering the large variability of HM composition. Individualized fortification, either targeted or adjustable, has been shown to be effective and practical in attaining adequate protein intakes and growth.
Most commercially available multi-nutrient fortifiers and protein concentrates are derived from bovine milk (BM), which has a protein composition very different from that of HM. The use of BM proteins has been recently questioned for possible association with intestinal inflammation in VLBW infants. Recently, one HM-based fortifier was shown to be associated with lower necrotizing enterocolitis rates and lower mortality in extremely premature infants, compared to BM-based products. Other milk sources are currently under evaluation: a randomized, controlled, single-blind clinical trial, coordinated by the Neonatal Unit of the University of Turin in collaboration with the Italian National Research Council of Turin and the University of Cagliari, is being carried out to evaluate the adequacy of fortifiers derived from donkey milk for the nutrition of preterm infants.