A large multicentre study in the United Kingdom intends to determine the optimal to feed babies born 7 to 10 weeks prematurely.
The FEED1 trial funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) will be carried out across 40 hospitals across the United Kingdom and will involve around 2000 babies. Researchers at the University of Nottingham will evaluate 2 methods of feeding premature babies to determine whether introduction of milk at the earliest opportunity could be beneficial to baby and family. They will be fed either intravenously from birth and milk feeds slowly introduced at a later stage or will be fed milk through a feeding tube right from birth.
Majority of the premature babies are currently fed through a venous drip and only small amounts of milk are introduced in their stomach through a feeding tube after they become stable. The amount of milk is gradually increased until they become completely milk fed. Full milk feeding right from birth has been traditionally avoided due to the risk of necrotising enterocolitis (NEC). However, there is some evidence which supports successful introduction of larger milk feeds within 48 hours of birth in stable babies could confer protection from severe infection without increasing the risk of NEC.
The authors believe that early introduction of milk feeds in relatively stable babies could offer several benefits including the nutrients and protective antibodies of breast milk, and also allow closer bonding from near-immediate contact and parental care.