Babies born prematurely are predisposed to necrotizing enterocolitis, in which portions of the intestinal lining dies. Infant formulas are thought to contribute to the development of this disorder in premature babies. This is a serious condition that can lead to death in about 25% of premies.
Dr. Sangild (University of Copenhagen) and colleagues have discovered that premature piglets that were fed either human donor breast milk or bovine (cow) colostrum had better outcomes compared to those fed infant formula. Food passage time through the intestines was longer for premie piglets fed either human milk or cow colostrum, thereby improving absorption of sugars. They also gained more weight, had higher enzyme activities to aid in digestion, and lower markers of inflammation compared to formula fed piglets. Moreover, the number of lesions in the intestines were lower. What these findings imply is that cow colostrum may be a better alternative to infant formula in the prevention of necrotizing enterocolitis in the event that the mother's milk is not available.
Jenson ML, Sangild PT, Lykke M, Schmidt M, Boye M, Jensen BB, Thymann T. Similar efficacy of human banked milk and bovine colostrum to decrease incidence of necrotizing enterocolitis in preterm piglet. AJP - Regu Physiol. 305( 1): R4-R12, 2013.