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Adv Pediatr. 2005;52:23-47.

Nutrition for preterm infants after hospital discharge.

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University of South Florida College of Medicine, Tampa, Florida, USA.


Preterm infants accrue significant nutrient deficits during hospitalization, and at the time of discharge most VLBW preterm infants have moderate to severe growth failure. Infants with significant morbidities and infants with ELBW have more severe growth failure since they regain birth weight at a later age, and they gain weight more slowly. Catch-up growth accelerates after hospital discharge. The rates of catch-up growth vary according to many factors including birth weight, gestational age, parental size, adequacy of intrauterine growth, neurologic impairment, clinical course, and nutrition. Most catch-up growth occurs within the first 2 to 3 years of life; however, compensatory catch-up growth may continue into adolescence and adulthood. Despite evidence of ongoing catch-up growth, the mean growth measurements of children and adults who were born preterm and with VLBW are lower than their term-born peers. Accelerated rates of catch-up growth are associated with better neurodevelopmental outcomes. Inadequate head circumference growth, in particular, may have long-term prognostic significance for later neurodevelopment in preterm infants. Nutrient-enriched formulas that provide 22 kcal/oz are often prescribed for VLBW preterm infants after hospital discharge. Several studies have reported that preterm infants fed the enriched versus standard term infant formulas have greater rates of catch-up growth during the first year of life, including greater increases in head circumference. The nutrient-enriched formulas appear to be of particular benefit for male infants. There is less information regarding the nutrient needs of breast-fed infants after hospital discharge. However, several studies have demonstrated that preterm infants fed unfortified human milk after discharge have growth rates and bone mass that are lower than formula-fed infants during infancy. The use of fortified human milk, or alternate feedings with a nutrient-enriched formula may be useful for breast-fed infants who have delays in catch-up growth. Additional studies are needed to determine whether enriched feedings might be of particular benefit for preterm infants who are at greater risk for postnatal growth failure, including infants born SGA, or with extremely low birth weights, intrauterine growth restriction, or chronic conditions such as bronchopulmonary dysplasia. The potential effect of nutritional programming on long-term outcomes of preterm infants also requires further investigation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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