Providing appropriate nutrition for growth and development is a cornerstone of the care of preterm infants. Early postnatal nutrition during this critical period of brain growth may have a substantial impact on clinically important outcomes, including long term neurodevelopment.
Fig. Infants with intrauterine growth restriction lack subcutaneous fat and other nutrient stores
Preterm infants, especially those who have been growth restricted in utero, have fewer nutrient reserves at birth than term infants. Additionally, preterm infants are subject to physiological and metabolic stresses that can affect their nutritional needs, such as respiratory distress or infection. An international consensus group has recommended nutritional requirements for preterm infants. These recommendations are based on data from intrauterine growth and nutrient balance studies and assume that the optimal rate of postnatal growth for preterm infants should be similar to that of normal fetuses of the same post conception age. In practice, however, these target levels of nutrient input are not always achieved and this may result in important nutritional deficits.