Date issue: December 2021
Review date: December 2023
Why is nutrition important for premature babies?
During the last trimester of pregnancy babies store lots of nutrients and energy in preparation for their life outside the womb.
Babies who are born early miss out on this and need extra nutrition to grow and develop.
Ensuring babies are growing well during these first few weeks of life is really important for their long-term general health and brain development.
What is breast milk fortifier?
Breast milk fortifier (BMF) is a nutritional supplement that can be added to your expressed breast milk. It comes as a powder and contains extra calories, protein, vitamins and minerals. This helps to promote overall growth, including brain and bone development. It is made from cow’s milk, but the proteins have been broken down (hydrolysed) so they are more easily tolerated.
Why is breast milk fortifier needed?
Your breast milk is the best feed for your baby. However, preterm babies have much higher nutritional requirements than babies who are born at term. BMF helps provide this extra nutrition when they are being fed breast milk.
Eating or drinking particular foods will not increase the nutritional content of your breast milk. Adding fortifier to your milk allows your baby to get enough protein, vitamins and minerals to continue to grow.
How is breast milk fortifier given?
BMF is dissolved into your expressed breast milk. It is introduced gradually by giving it half strength at first and increasing to full strength after a day or two, once we feel your baby is tolerating it.
How long will my baby need breast milk fortifier?
In most cases BMF continues until babies are fully breast fed, but sometimes it may be recommended to continue for a period of time after this.
Wouldn’t it be better to switch to formula?
Even when fortifier is added, breast milk protects your baby from infections and is much easier for their developing gut to tolerate.
Are there any risks or side effects?
There is no evidence that BMF is harmful to babies.
All babies receiving fortifier are monitored to ensure they are tolerating it.
You may notice that your baby’s stools look thicker and they may open their bowels slightly less often.
Despite containing cow’s milk protein, there is no evidence that using fortifier increases the risk of developing allergies later in life.
Are there any alternatives to breast milk fortifiers?
If you have a good supply of breast milk it may be possible to give a larger volume. However, this may still not contain enough protein, and some babies may not tolerate higher volumes.
Need more information?
Please let your baby’s nurse know and a dietitian or doctor will arrange to speak with you.