Optimizing nutrition in preterm infants

Pediatr Neonatol. 2014 Feb;55(1):5-13. doi: 10.1016/j.pedneo.2013.07.003. Epub 2013 Sep 16.


Extrauterine growth restriction is common in very preterm infants. The incidence in very-low-birth-weight infants ranges between 43% and 97% in various centers, with a wide variability due to the use of different reference growth charts and nonstandard nutritional strategies. Extrauterine growth restriction is associated with an increased risk of poor neurodevelopmental outcome. Inadequate postnatal nutrition is an important factor contributing to growth failure, as most very preterm infants experience major protein and energy deficits during neonatal intensive care unit hospitalization. First-week protein and energy intake are associated with 18-month developmental outcomes in very preterm infants. Early aggressive nutrition, including parenteral and enteral, is well tolerated in the very preterm infant and is effective in improving growth. Continued provision of appropriate nutrition (fortified human milk or premature formula) is important throughout the growing care during the hospitalization. After discharge, exclusively breast-fed infants require additional supplementation. If formula-fed, nutrient-enriched postdischarge formula should be continued for approximately 9 months corrected age. Supplementation of the preterm formulas with protein would increase the protein/energy ratio (3 g/100 kcal), leading to increased lean mass with relatively decreased fat deposition. Further research is required to optimize the nutritional needs of preterm infants and to evaluate the effects of nutritional interventions on long-term growth, neurodevelopment, and other health outcomes.

Keywords: early aggressive nutrition; extrauterine growth restriction (EUGR); very preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Urea Nitrogen
  • Enteral Nutrition
  • Humans
  • Infant Formula
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature / growth & development*
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight