Nutrition in the neonatal intensive care unit: how do we reduce the incidence of extrauterine growth restriction?

J Perinatol. 2003 Jun;23(4):337-44. doi: 10.1038/


Extrauterine growth restriction is a major clinical problem for prematurely born neonates, especially critically ill preterm neonates, and malnutrition in the neonatal intensive-care unit remains common. There are numerous perceived risks to initiation of adequate nutritional support. How many of these factors pose a real risk to health outcomes is less clear. Current nutritional support does not prevent extrauterine growth restriction and the consequences of malnutrition are both acute and delayed. Our clinical approach to providing nutritional support impacts neonatal morbidity and long-term neuro developmental outcomes. While more and better evidence is needed to help guide best practices, this gap should not prevent neonatologists from using the observations in this review to improve their current practice. There is evidence that changes in nutritional support can have a positive influence on growth. These include early administration of intravenous amino acids and lipids, minimal enteral nutrition, and supplemented formula and human milk. Simply recognizing the degree of growth failure by monitoring weight and focusing on the accruing deficit should encourage clinicians to increase nutritional support to enhance recovery growth. Continued research is needed to define the efficiency of early feeding, more rapid advancements in nutritional support, protein needs, the optimal composition of breast-milk supplements, the etiology of necrotizing enterocolitis, and perhaps most importantly, the health consequences of extrauterine growth restriction.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Growth Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Growth Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Infant Nutrition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data*