Preterm or premature infants
In the UK approximately 60,000 babies are born premature each year. An infant is defined as being premature if they are born before 37weeks. If a baby is born early they may need special care as they may not be fully developed and they may also be born smaller than a term baby. This can affect their ability to drink breast or formula milk, digest the milk which can impact their growth. Appropriate nutrition is also very important to support the baby’s ongoing development and provides the building blocks for further growth and brain development. Good nutrition can also help babies fight and resist infections
When would we see a preterm infant?
- Not tolerating their milk – breast milk or formula
- Not tolerating the volume of milk expected for their age
- Not growing as expected along their centile lines
- Not able to feed adequately orally
- Not meeting their nutritional requirements
How does a dietitian help?
A paediatric dietitian trained in neonatal nutrition supports the Special Care Baby Unit’s within the hospital and also patients in the community by providing advice on the following:
- How to adapt milk choice to support nutritional requirements
- How to adapt feeding plan to support appropriate growth
- Which specialist formula product to use should this be indicated
- Weaning your preterm infant
- Returning to normal diet and breast feeding or formula post discharge from hospital
The dietitian will evaluate and monitor the babies to ensure they reach their optimal nutritional intake. We also work closely with the paediatricians and specialist outreach neonatal nurses to provide patient centred care for the baby and their families.
Below are some useful links to websites that can provide more information on preterm infants and their nutrition.