Feeding Preterm Infants After Hospital Discharge: A Commentary by the ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition

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Abstract

Survival of small premature infants has markedly improved during the last few decades. These infants are discharged from hospital care with body weight below the usual birth weight of healthy term infants. Early nutrition support of preterm infants influences long-term health outcomes. Therefore, the ESPGHAN Committee on Nutrition has reviewed available evidence on feeding preterm infants after hospital discharge. Close monitoring of growth during hospital stay and after discharge is recommended to enable the provision of adequate nutrition support. Measurements of length and head circumference, in addition to weight, must be used to identify those preterm infants with poor growth that may need additional nutrition support. Infants with an appropriate weight for postconceptional age at discharge should be breast-fed when possible. When formula-fed, such infants should be fed regular infant formula with provision of long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Infants discharged with a subnormal weight for postconceptional age are at increased risk of long-term growth failure, and the human milk they consume should be supplemented, for example, with a human milk fortifier to provide an adequate nutrient supply. If formula-fed, such infants should receive special postdischarge formula with high contents of protein, minerals and trace elements as well as an long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid supply, at least until a postconceptional age of 40 weeks, but possibly until about 52 weeks postconceptional age. Continued growth monitoring is required to adapt feeding choices to the needs of individual infants and to avoid underfeeding or overfeeding.

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