Why are the nutritional needs of preemies different from those of full-term babies? What’s the link between good nutrition and a preemie’s brain and bone development? The answers to these questions and more can be found in this article.
Proper nutrition is so important for the healthy growth and development of all newborn babies, with research showing a positive correlation between good nutrition during infancy and adult health.
However, preemies’ nutritional needs will almost always be more complicated than those of a full-term baby’s. This is because the third trimester of pregnancy sees the accumulation of important nutrients such as iron in the liver, DHA which is channelled to the brain and eyes, calcium stores for strong bones and storage of body fat for temperature regulation etc.
The compromise of the crucial phase means that preemies have a lot of catching up to do in terms of development as compared to a full-term baby.
To do so, a preemie needs to receive more nutrients that a term baby in order to reach weight, body composition and body stores of nutrients close to what he would have gained if he were still in your womb, and for his overall physical and mental development.
So, if you are currently pregnant, or the mum of a premature baby, it’s good to arm yourself with information on their nutritional needs —and we are here to help you with this.
Nutritional challenges of preemies versus term babies
As compared to term babies, preemies born prematurely have inadequate nutrient stores such as calcium, phosphorous, protein, essential fatty acids etc. to support growth. In addition, other medical conditions faced by preemies increases their energy and nutrient requirements.
To top off the higher nutrient needs, preemies are relatively less efficient and effective in their nutrition intake due to feeding challenges which include:
- Sucking muscles have not developed
- GI tract is not fully developed and not all nutrients are absorbed
- Restricted feeding volume is often needed
- Infants in NICU have weak immune systems and are more susceptible to infection therefore restricting the frequency of feeds and achievement of targeted feed volumes each day
Even at discharge, your little one may still have some or all of the following nutritional issues:
- Less growth than a full-term baby of the same gestational age
- Decreased bone density
- Deficiencies in energy and protein levels
- A compromised antioxidant status
- Reduced iron and zinc levels
Nutrition for premature babies: the importance of your preemie’s first year of life… read more about this on the next page.