Neonatal stomach volume and physiology suggest feeding at 1-h intervals

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Abstract

There is insufficient evidence on optimal neonatal feeding intervals, with a wide range of practices. The stomach capacity could determine feeding frequency. A literature search was conducted for studies reporting volumes or dimensions of stomach capacity before or after birth. Six articles were found, suggesting a stomach capacity of 20 mL at birth.

Conclusion

A stomach capacity of 20 mL translates to a feeding interval of approximately 1 h for a term neonate. This corresponds to the gastric emptying time for human milk, as well as the normal neonatal sleep cycle. Larger feeding volumes at longer intervals may therefore be stressful and the cause of spitting up, reflux and hypoglycaemia. Outcomes for low birthweight infants could possibly be improved if stress from overfeeding was avoided while supporting the development of normal gastrointestinal physiology. Cycles between feeding and sleeping at 1-h intervals likely meet the evolutionary expectations of human neonates.

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