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Infants born premature have increased susceptibility to infection and other immune complications. Human milk feeding has been associated with fewer infections and reduced intestinal inflammation leading to improved health outcomes. The composition of milk is variable between mothers and changes over the course of lactation to meet the needs of the growing infant. There is an urgent need to define the components of milk that are critical for protecting against infection and improving infant health. Premature infants often receive combinations of feeding that includes donor milk that is derived from mature milk. Thus, premature infants could receive milk that lacks critical components present in early milk or colostrum. In this study, we determined the impact of early colostrum feeding had on long term health outcomes using a mouse cross-fostering feeding model. We compared body weight, fat composition, and antibody responses to Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine over time in pups who were fed limited, normal, or excess amounts of colostrum. These conditions were achieved by cross fostering newborn and 1 week old mouse pups. We found that pups who ingested limited colostrum had a reduction in body weight compared to pups that ingested normal amounts of colostrum. Furthermore, this weigh discrepancy was maintained for at least the first month of life, corresponding to the juvenile stage of development. There were also differences in the antibody response to the RSV vaccine in the pups that did not receive colostrum. These experiments will provide key insights into the importance of colostrum and milk derived-immune factors on infant development.

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Early milk feeding impacts health and immunity in later life