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Promoting growth for preterm infants following hospital discharge


Preterm infants, especially very preterm infants, are usually growth-restricted at the time of hospital discharge. Proposed interventions to promote catch-up growth following hospital discharge include multinutrient fortification of expressed breast milk for breastfed infants and nutrient-enriched formula milk for formula-fed infants. The current evidence to support these strategies is limited. Fortification of expressed breast milk may increase weight gain and skeletal and head growth during infancy, but more research is needed to define which nutrients confer most benefit, and which population of infants is likely to receive most benefit. Trials that have assessed feeding preterm infants with commercially available nutrient-enriched formula milk (‘preterm’ or ‘postdischarge’ formulae) compared with standard formula milk have not found consistent evidence of an effect on growth parameters or development, probably because ad libitum fed infants reduce their intake relative to the calorie-density of the milk. Future studies should focus on the effect of formulae enriched with protein and minerals rather than energy and assess the effect on lean mass and skeletal growth.

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