Neonatal Nutrition

Good nutrition is essential for survival, physical growth, mental development, performance, productivity, health and well-being across the entire life-span: from the earliest stages of fetal development, at birth, and through infancy, childhood, adolescence and on into adulthood.

Premature babies need to receive good nutrition so they grow at a rate close to that of babies still inside the womb. Babies born at less than 37 weeks gestation (premature) have different nutritional needs than babies born at full term (after 38 weeks). Premature babies will often stay in the neonatal intensive care unit they are watched closely to make sure they are getting the right balance of fluids and nutrition. Incubators or special warmers help babies maintain their body temperature. This reduces the energy the babies have to use to stay warm. Moist air is also used to help them maintain body temperature and avoid fluid loss.

Babies born before 34 to 37 weeks often have problems feeding from a bottle or a breast. This is because they are not yet mature enough to coordinate sucking, breathing, and swallowing.

Other illness can also interfere with a new-born’s ability to feed by mouth. Some of these include:

  • Breathing problems
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Circulation problems
  • Blood infection
  • New-born babies who are very small or sick may need to get nutrition and fluids through a vein (IV).

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