Growth & Metabolism / Preterm

Preterm infants face unique health challenges

The earlier an infant is born, the less prepared it is for the outside world and so the more special care it will need to stay alive.1 The very particular challenges premature infants face include:

• A need for high velocity growth outside of the womb vs. immature gastrointestinal and metabolic systems 2 ,3
• High nutrient requirements needed for growth vs a limited feeding volume tolerance3
• Immature/compromised immune system leaving infants susceptible to infections4
• Growth deficits affecting functional organ development, including brain development5

Every two seconds, somewhere in the world, a premature infant is born – the equivalent to about 15 million babies every year.1
Preterm birth, classified as a birth that takes place before 37 completed weeks of gestation, 6 is the number one cause of childhood mortality and morbidity.

Preterm infants are at risk of disabilities that can affect their entire lives; the care an infant receives during and around birth and the period that follows is therefore of critical importance.

Preterm infants have specific nutritional requirements

The final trimester of pregnancy is a period of rapid physical growth for the infant; a rate of growth far greater than a preterm infant experiences outside of the womb. Missing this critical phase of intrauterine growth and development means that preterm infants face a difficult challenge to grow and develop at a similar pace to their term-born peers, resulting in increased nutritional requirements. Meeting these increased nutritional needs can have positive long-lasting effects on development, and can reduce the risk of developing non-communicable diseases in the future.3, 2, 7, 8, 9

The nutrition an infant receives within their first 1000 days has the power to influence their lifelong health.

Breastfeeding and human milk offer the best nutrition for all infants; however for preterm infants, human milk from their mother is not always available, or may not be nutritionally sufficient, thus requiring fortification. When a mother’s own milk is unavailable, donor human milk or a preterm formula, is recommended.10
Danone Nutricia Research has developed a range of nutritional solutions that encourage breastfeeding and at the same time meet the very specific nutritional needs of preterm infants. Our preterm formulas and human milk fortifiers support growth, immune health, gastrointestinal function, and metabolic and brain development.

These documents explain our belief that the right nutrition in the first 1000 days has the power to influence preterm infants’ health for life.


Learn more about the growth journey during the first crucial 1000 days and infant growth challenges here.

View References

Howson, et al (Eds.). Born Too Soon: The Global Action Report on Preterm Birth. 2012. World Health Organisation. Geneva, Switzerland.
Agostoni, et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 2010;50(1):85-91.
Klein (Ed.) J Nutr, 2002;132(6 Suppl 1):1395S-1577S;11.
Neu. (2014) 110: 253-263. In: Koletzko-Uauy-Pointdexter (Eds.). Nutritional care of preterm infants: Scientific basis and practical guidelines. Karger, Basel, Switzerland.
Ramel and Georgieff. World Rev Nutr Diet, 2014;110:190-200.
Vanhees et al. Cell Mol Life Sci, 2014;71(2):271-85.
Koletzko. Adv Exp Med Biol, 2005;569:1-12. .
Prince and Groh-Wargo.  Nutr Clin Pract, 2013;28(6):659-68.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Pediatrics, 2012;129(3):e827-2841.