The aims of this study were to evaluate the gastric electrical activity and gastric emptying in preterm and term newborns and to assess the development of gastric motility by comparing newborns of different gestational ages. The cutaneous electrogastrography and the ultrasonographic study of the gastric emptying were performed before and after milk formula in three groups of infants: 12 preterm newborns with a gestational age of 28-32 weeks, 11 preterm newborns with a gestational age of 32-36 weeks, and 10 full-term newborns with a gestational age of 36-40 weeks. All recording sessions were performed 1 week after infants had reached full enteral feeding. The percentage of normal slow waves was similar in the three groups but it was not predominant compared to tachygastria in the earliest premature infants (59.3% (12.7-92.3) vs. 29.6% (3.7-78.8); P < 0.05). In addition, a progressive increase in the normal slow wave percentage (59.3% (17.4-87.4), 60.9% (38.1-89.7), 77.8% (66.4-84.8); P < 0.05) was observed as gestation advanced. As regards gastric emptying parameters, the antral area was greater and T(1/2) was longer in the preterm newborns of 28-32 weeks than preterm newborns of 32-36 weeks and full-term newborns (fasting antral area: 0.96 cm2 (0.6-1.5), 0.63 cm2 (0.4-1.2), 0.55 cm2 (0.1-0.9) respectively, P < 0.05; T(1/2): 83.4 min (76.0-108.5), 70 min (57.5-89.5) and 71.8 min (54.9-81.2), respectively P < 0.05). The comparisons of gastric emptying curves made among the three groups showed a reduced antral dilatation in preterm newborns of 28-32 weeks compared to full-term newborns at 30 and 60 min after a meal. In conclusion, although enteral feeding is important for the development process of gastrointestinal motility, gastric electrical activity and gastric emptying show an intrinsic maturation depending on the gestational age.