It has been estimated that 95% of low-birthweight infants are born in developing countries. Nevertheless, most of the globally available resources are invested in developed countries, both for sophisticated, expensive technological care and for research focused on solving problems in scenarios in which access to expensive resources is available. Very little research on scientifically sound, economically accessible interventions reaches internationally recognized scientific journals. For instance, one accepted scientific dogma is that all premature infants must receive breast-milk fortifiers. Thus, healthcare workers consider that not offering fortification or supplementation to all preterm infants under 2000 g is unethical, as it denies them the proven benefits of this intervention. This approach oversimplifies the problem by assuming that infants under 2000 g are a homogeneous population, with similar needs and risks. The largest proportion of preterm survivors in developing countries comprises infants weighing <1200g, and their nutritional needs differ from those weighing >1200g, who represent a significantly smaller proportion. In developing countries, fortification of breast milk is seldom a feasible option. Even supplementing breast milk with formula implies an expense that cannot always be covered. In addition, many preterm infants (particularly those weighing >1200g) can grow properly on exclusive breastfeeding. In our experience, about 45% of infants under ambulatory Kangaroo Mother Care (KMC) thrive properly. The choice between giving and withholding supplementation for all preterm infants is not an ethical issue, because there is no choice. This was the justification for conducting the study reported here, which attempts to answer the question of how to identify, as early as possible, those premature infants who survive the early neonatal period and have no obvious risk factors for inadequate growth other than prematurity, but who are less likely to thrive with exclusive breastfeeding.
Conclusion: The answer to this question will allow us to use our meagre resources in the most reasonable way, as supplementing breast milk involves not only the direct cost of the formula but also that of training the mothers in techniques for feeding their infants without compromising breastfeeding or increasing the risk of infectious diseases.