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J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2019 Mar;68(3):416-421. doi: 10.1097/MPG.0000000000002229.

Symptoms of Feeding Problems in Preterm-born Children at 6 Months to 7 Years Old.

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Boston College, William F. Connell School of Nursing, Chestnut Hill, MA.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing, Chapel Hill, NC.
Boston College, Research Services, Chestnut Hill, MA.



Describe symptoms of feeding problems in children born very preterm (<32 weeks gestation) and moderate to late preterm (32-37 weeks gestation) compared to children born full-term; explore the contribution of medical risk factors to problematic feeding symptoms.


The sample included 57 very preterm, 199 moderate to late preterm, and 979 full-term born children ages 6 months to 7 years. Symptoms of feeding problems were assessed using the Pediatric Eating Assessment Tool and compared between groups after accounting for the child's age and/or sex. With the sample of preterm children, we further analyzed 11 medical factors as potential risk factors affecting a child's feeding symptoms: feeding problems in early infancy and conditions of oxygen requirement past 40 weeks of postmenstrual age, congenital heart disease, structural anomaly, genetic disorder, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, speech-language delay, sensory processing disorder, vision impairment, or symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux.


Compared to children born full-term, both very preterm and moderate to late preterm born children had significantly higher scores on the Pediatric Eating Assessment Tool total scale and all 4 subscales. More severe symptoms were noted in very preterm children, particularly in the areas of Physiologic Symptoms and Selective/Restrictive Eating. Among preterm children, all 11 medical factors were found to be associated significantly with increased symptoms of feeding problems.


Compared to children born full-term, preterm born children demonstrated greater symptoms of feeding problems regardless of their current age, suggesting children born preterm may require more careful monitoring of feeding throughout childhood.

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