BACKGROUND: Oral feeding skills of moderately preterm infants are not mature at birth.
AIMS: To establish the relationship between postmenstrual age at introduction of first oral feeding and attainment of full oral feeding and hospital discharge for moderately preterm infants.
STUDY DESIGN: Multicenter retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort of moderately preterm infants admitted to a Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Neonatal Research Network hospital.
SUBJECTS: 6146 infants born at 29-33 weeks' gestation from January 2012 to November 2013.
OUTCOME MEASURES: Postmenstrual age at full oral feeding and at hospital discharge.
RESULTS: The median postmenstrual age at first oral feeding was 33.9 weeks (interquartile range 33.1-34.3). For each week earlier at first oral feeding, full oral feeding occurred 4.5 days earlier (p < 0.0001) and hospital stay was shortened by 3.4 days (p < 0.0001). Higher birth weight (p < 0.0001) and black maternal race (p = 0.0001) were associated with younger postmenstrual age at full oral feeding and at discharge.
CONCLUSION: Moderately preterm infants with earlier introduction of oral feeding achieved earlier full oral feeding and hospital discharge.