Long-term consequences of prematurity are a public health concern. A pattern of slow initial weight gain followed by a period of rapid weight gain has been associated with poor cardiometabolic health outcomes. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships between infant feeding practices and weight gain in a sample of 18-to-24-month olds corrected age born very preterm. Dr. Olivia Affuso, associate professor in the department of Epidemiology at University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health was a member of this research team.
A cross-sectional design was used to examine the relationships between infant feeding practices and weight gain. Estimates of effect sizes and model fit estimates were the primary parameters of interest.
Most of the participants received human milk after birth, but most had transitioned to formula before three months. Slightly less than half received complementary foods prior to four months corrected age. Gains in weight and head circumference were rapid after discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit, while gains in length lagged behind. Infant feeding practices did not have a clinically meaningful effect on weight gain.
While the initiation of human milk feedings was encouraging, the duration fell short of recommendations. Practices such as the early introduction of complementary feedings and the addition of rice cereal to the bottle are troubling. Additionally, the rapid increase in weight gain may have a negative impact on future cardiometabolic health.
Clinical recommendations include ensuring support for the use of human milk before and after hospital discharge, close monitoring of physical growth, and ensuring adherence to the guidelines for the introduction of complementary foods.
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