Introducing solid foods to preterm infants in developed countries

D. J. Palmer, M. Makrides

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


The addition of solid foods to an infant's diet is required to provide adequate nutrition, as eventually an infant will be unable to consume a sufficient volume of breast milk to meet their nutritional needs. The timing of this important dietary change for infants born preterm (<37 weeks of gestation) should take into consideration their delayed early gross motor developmental progress, increased nutritional requirements, organ immaturity, increased gut permeability and increased risk of hospitalization from infections. Good head control is important for safe eating of solid foods: this developmental milestone may be delayed in preterm infants up to 3 months of corrected age. One randomized controlled trial has demonstrated improved nutritional intakes with the introduction of nutrient-dense solid foods from 13 weeks of uncorrected age, resulting in improved nutritional iron status and greater rate of growth during infancy. There is neither current evidence for an increased infection rate with an early introduction of solid foods in developed countries, nor is there evidence that in preterm infants maturation of renal function is reduced. However, one observational study has determined that preterm infants who had 4 or more solid foods introduced prior to 17 weeks of corrected age, or who had any solid foods introduced prior to 10 weeks of corrected age, had an increased risk of eczema development. A compromise is needed to balance the nutritional benefits of commencing solid foods from 13 weeks of uncorrected age with the risks of increased eczema development, along with ensuring developmental readiness. Based on the current evidence, 3 months (13 weeks) of corrected age seems to be an appropriate age to commence nutrient-dense solid foods for most preterm infants. Further research, with an emphasis on immediate as well as longer-term consequences, would be valuable to provide more specific evidence-based guidelines regarding the introduction of solid food for preterm infants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Nutrition and Metabolism
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Apr 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Complementary feeding
  • Developmental readiness
  • Infant eczema
  • Preterm infants
  • Solid food introduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics

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