Background: This systematic review summarizes available literature regarding complementary feeding (CF) in preterm infants, with or without comorbidities that may interfere with oral functions.
Methods: A literature search was conducted in PubMed and the Cochrane Library. Studies relating to preterm infants (gestational age <37 weeks) were included in the analysis. Retrieved papers were categorized according to their main topic: CF timing and quality; clinical outcome; recommendations; strategies in infants with oral dysfunction.
Results: The literature search in PubMed retrieved 6295 papers. Forty met inclusion criteria. The Cochrane search identified four additional study protocols, two related to studies included among PubMed search results, and two ongoing trials. Moreover, among 112 papers dealing with oral feeding, four aiming at managing CF in preterm infants with oral dysfunctions were identified.
Conclusions: The available literature does not provide specific guidelines on the management of CF in preterm infants, who are generally weaned earlier than term infants. There is a paucity of data regarding the relationship between CF and growth/quality of growth and health outcomes in preterm infants. It could be suggested to start CF between five and eight months of chronological age if infants have reached three months corrected age and if they have acquired the necessary developmental skills. An individualized multidisciplinary intervention is advisable for preterm infants with oral dysfunctions.
Keywords: complementary feeding; oral dysfunction; preterm infants; weaning.