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Oxytocin nasal spray does not boost milk output

Written by: Staff

NEW YORK, May 6 (Reuters) A nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin, which is essential to the production and flow of breast milk, does not improve milk output in mothers expressing milk for preterm infants, a study shows.

''Mothers may experience difficulties in expressing breast milk for infants too immature or sick to breast feed,'' Dr M S Fewtrell, of the Institute of Child Health in London, and colleagues explain.

''Oxytocin has been used to assist breast feeding and milk expression, but few data are available to support this intervention in the neonatal unit setting.'' They examined whether oxytocin nasal spray increased early milk output in mothers expressing milk for preterm infants. Fifty-one mothers who delivered infants before 35 weeks gestation were randomized to oxytocin nasal spray or placebo spray.

The mothers used the spray before expression of milk with an electric pump for 5 days. Complete 5-day milk records were available and analyzed for 21 mothers in each group.

There was no significant difference in total milk production between the groups. Although the pattern of milk production was initially different between the two groups, with the oxytocin group producing more milk on day 1 and day 2, at the end of the trial, the placebo group produced more milk.

Although oxytocin spray did not improve early milk production, there was some evidence that the mothers benefited from the lactation support that was available during the study, ''illustrating the importance of psychological factors and support in lactation, particularly in this vulnerable group of mothers,'' the authors note.

Reuters DKS GC0835

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