Premature birth did not have a pronounced impact on eating behaviour of four-year-old children, but some effects were observed in girls

Acta Paediatr. 2022 Dec;111(12):2331-2336. doi: 10.1111/apa.16546. Epub 2022 Sep 30.


Aim: Feeding of preterm-born children has been extensively studied during infancy. Few studies have focused on later life but the available data indicate that feeding problems may persist after infancy. We studied this topic using two cohorts of full-term and preterm-born children.

Methods: The Children's Eating Difficulties Questionnaire was used to assess the appetite, food enjoyment, pickiness and neophobia, the fear of new foods, of 347 four-year-old children born in 2009-2011. Of these, 179 (52% boys) were born preterm at 24 to 36 weeks and recruited from paediatric clinics in southeast Sweden. The 168 children (54% boys) born full-term were recruited from a maternity health clinic in the same region. The parents graded 12 statements about their child's eating behaviour from very false to very true.

Results: A low gestational age at birth was associated with less reported appetite in girls. Estimates describing appetite and food enjoyment correlated with gestational age at birth in girls but not in boys. This difference between boys and girls was significant (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: Prematurity had no major effects on food-related behaviour in four-year-old children. However, some estimates of reduced appetite and food enjoyment were associated with lower gestational age at birth in girls but not in boys.

Keywords: Appetite; eating behaviour; food enjoyment; preterm birth; sex differences.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Premature Birth*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires