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  1. Parker, Leslie A. PhD, NNP-BC
  2. Krueger, Charlene PhD, ARNP
  3. Sullivan, Sandra MD
  4. Kelechi, Teresa PhD
  5. Mueller, Martina PhD


PURPOSE: Care of the very low-birth-weight (VLBW) infant is associated with prolonged hospitalization and increased hospital costs. Specific complications of prematurity, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), late-onset sepsis (LOS), and feeding intolerance, contribute to increased cost and length of hospitalization in this population. The provision of breast milk to VLBW infants has been associated with decreased incidence of NEC and LOS as well as fewer days required to achieve full enteral feedings. The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of breast milk on length of hospitalization and hospital costs among VLBW infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


SUBJECTS: A total of 80 infants weighing less than 1500 g, born prior to 32 weeks' gestation and who remained in the home hospital until discharge.


DESIGN: This descriptive comparative study examined cost of hospitalization and length of stay between 2 groups of VLBW premature infants fed either exclusively formula (n = 40) or at least 50% breast milk (n = 40) during their hospitalization.


METHODS: A retrospective chart review was used to collect information concerning patient demographics, discharge information, and nutritional variables. Information regarding hospital costs was obtained from the hospital's patient accounting office.


MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Independent t tests were used to compare demographic data, length of hospitalization, and cost of care between the 2 groups.


PRINCIPAL RESULTS: No statistically significant differences in length of stay or cost of care were found between infants fed at least 50% breast milk and those who were exclusively formula fed. Descriptive data concerning length of stay and cost of care for VLBW infants and those infants weighing less than 1000 g are presented.


CONCLUSION: This article presents a descriptive comparative study on the effect of providing at least 50% breast milk feedings compared with formula feeding on days to discharge and cost of hospitalization in VLBW infants in the NICU. It also provides information concerning cost of care and length of stay in VLBW and infants weighing less than 1000 g.