Association between Feeding Difficulties and Language Delay in Preterm Infants UsingBayley Scales of Infant Development-Third Edition

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To evaluate the relationship between abnormal feeding patterns and language performance on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Third Edition at 18-22 months adjusted age among a cohort of extremely premature infants.

Study design

This is a descriptive analysis of 1477 preterm infants born ≤26 weeks gestation or enrolled in a clinical trial between January 1, 2006 and March 18, 2008 at a National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network center who completed the 18-month neurodevelopmental follow-up assessment. At 18-22 months adjusted age, a comprehensive neurodevelopmental evaluation was performed by certified examiners including the Receptive and Expressive Language Subscales of the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Third Edition and a standardized adjusted age feeding behaviors and nutritional intake. Data were analyzed using bivariate and multilevel linear and logistic regression modeling.


Abnormal feeding behaviors were reported in 193 (13%) of these infants at 18-22 months adjusted age. Abnormal feeding patterns, days of mechanical ventilation, hearing impairment, and Gross Motor Functional Classification System level ≥2 each independently predicted lower composite language scores.


At 18 months adjusted age, premature infants with a history of feeding difficulties are more likely to have language delay. Neuromotor impairment and days of mechanical ventilation are both important risk factors associated with these outcomes.

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