Breast milk contains immunomodulating components that are beneficial to newborns during maturation of their immune system. Human breast milk composition is influenced by an infant’s gestational and chronological age, lactation stage, and the mother and infant’s health status. Major immunologic components in human milk, such as secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA) and growth factors, have a known role in regulating gut barrier integrity and microbial colonization, which therefore protect against the development of a life-threatening gastrointestinal illness affecting newborn infants called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Breast milk is a known protective factor in the prevention of NEC when compared with feeding with commercial formula. Breast milk supplements infants with human milk oligosaccharides, leukocytes, cytokines, nitric oxide, and growth factors that attenuate inflammatory responses and provide immunological defenses to reduce the incidence of NEC. This article aims to review the variety of immunomodulating components in breast milk that protect the infant from the development of NEC.
- Breast milk
- Necrotizing enterocolitis