Objective: To assess the effect on growth and iron status in preterm infants of a specially devised weaning strategy compared with current best practices in infant feeding. The preterm weaning strategy recommended the early onset of weaning and the use of foods with a higher energy and protein content than standard milk formula, and foods that are rich sources of iron and zinc.
Subjects and design: In a blinded, controlled study, 68 preterm infants (mean (SD) birth weight 1470 (430) g and mean (SD) gestational age 31.3 (2.9) weeks) were randomised to either the preterm weaning strategy group (n = 37) or a current best practice control group (n = 31), from hospital discharge until 1 year gestation corrected age (GCA).
Main outcome measures: Weight, supine length, occipitofrontal head circumference, and intakes of energy, protein, and minerals were determined at 0, 6, and 12 months GCA. Levels of haemoglobin, serum iron, and serum ferritin were assayed at 0 and 6 months GCA.
Results: Significant positive effects of treatment included: greater increase in standard deviation length scores and length growth velocity; increased intake of energy, protein, and carbohydrate at 6 months GCA and iron at 12 months GCA; increased haemoglobin and serum iron levels at 6 months GCA.
Conclusions: The preterm weaning strategy significantly influenced dietary intakes with consequent beneficial effects on growth in length and iron status. This strategy should be adopted as the basis of feeding guidelines for preterm infants after hospital discharge.
- PWS, preterm weaning strategy
- GCA, gestation corrected age
- SDS, standard deviation score
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