Vassana Vinaipanich, a paediatrician at Uttaradit Hospital, said premature babies are at significant risk of suffering from retinopathy – or non-inflammatory damage to the eyes.
Speaking at a seminar on the importance of breastfeeding, Dr Vassana said babies who are born before 36 weeks of gestation are prone to retinopathy, and those who are born more than two months prematurely are at the highest risk.
Between 1999 and 2001, the Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health studied 430 premature babies who weighed less than two kilogrammes. It was found that 22% of them had the retinal disorder.
She said a recent study compared mothers who only breast-fed their babies, those who fed their babies with both breast milk and from a bottle, and those who only bottle-fed their babies.
It was found that premature babies who were exclusively bottle-fed were six times more prone to retinopathy than those who were exclusively breast-fed.
”Besides other valuable nutrients, breast milk is rich in taurine, which contributes to the growth of the retina. There is no such substance in milk powder,” Dr Vassana said.