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Enteral feeding practices in very preterm infants: an international survey


Objective To evaluate enteral feeding practices in neonatal units in different countries and on different continents.

Design A web-based survey of 127 tertiary neonatal intensive care units in Australia, Canada, Denmark, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the UK.

Results 124 units (98%) responded. 59 units (48%) had a breast milk bank or access to donor human milk (Australia/New Zealand 2/27, Canada 6/29, Scandinavia 20/20 and UK/Ireland 31/48). The proportion of units initiating enteral feeding within the first 24 h of life was: 43/124 (35%) if gestational age (GA) <25 weeks, 53/124 (43%) if GA 25–27 weeks and 88/124 (71%) if GA 28–31 weeks. In general, Scandinavian units introduced enteral feeds the earliest, followed by UK/Ireland. Continuous feeding was routinely used for infants below 28 weeks' gestation in almost half of the Scandinavian units and in approximately one sixth of units in UK/Ireland, but rarely in Australia/New Zealand and Canada. Minimal enteral feeding for 4–5 days was common in Canada, but rare in Scandinavia. Target enteral feeding volume in a ‘stable’ preterm infant was 140–160 ml/kg/day in most Canadian units and 161–180 ml/kg/day or higher in units in the other regions. There were also marked regional differences in criteria for use and timing when human milk fortifier was added.

Conclusions This study highlights areas of uncertainty and demonstrates marked variability in feeding practices. It provides valuable data for planning collaborative feeding trials to optimise outcome in preterm infants.

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