Nutrition for preemies: hand-in-hand for the best start in life

Talking Nutrition Editors

Nutrition plays a vital role for preterm infants

  • Preterm infants – born before 37 weeks‘ of gestation – have higher nutritional needs than term born infants
  • The findings from the report provide insights into how the nutritional preferences of kids vary from country to country, emphasizing the importance of targeted solutions tailored to specific nutritional demands and desires.
  • DSM supports the EFCNI’s interdisciplinary approach, convening parents, medical professionals and industry representatives together to achieve a common goal – improving the outcomes of preterm born infants.

Nutrition for Newborns

It is scientifically recognized that nutrition during early life plays a fundamental role in supporting adequate growth and development and has an important effect on long-term health outcomes. This is especially true during the first 1,000 days of life, which is defined as the timeframe between the onset of a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.DSM strongly endorses global experts’ opinions that this period of time offers a critical window to help build a healthier future for infants, with adequate nutrition being a key enabler.

For preterm infants, born before maturity, nutrition is even more crucial as the need to cope with extrauterine growth and development ideally should match intrauterine growth and development. In line with our view, DSM has partnered with the European Foundation for the Care of Newborn Infants (EFCNI), the first pan-European organization and network to represent the interests of preterm and ill newborn infants and their families. Given EFCNI and DSM share similar values when it comes to newborn health and development, it was designated to result in a partnership.

“We strongly believe in the collaborative nature of EFCNI’s approach and think parents, professionals and industry must all work hand-in-hand to provide the best start in life for all preterm infants.”

Peter Van Dael, Senior Vice President at DSM Nutritional Products

EFCNI’s standards of care for preterm nutrition and why they matter

Preterm infants, which are born before full gestation, have higher nutrient requirements in order to gain weight and nutrient body stores similar to full term born infants as well as to manage adequate maturation of their immature organs, e.g. the gut. This often necessitates very personalized diets and combinations of enteral and/or parenteral nutrition. Since nutritional care practices can vary between hospitals, written standards and protocols can go a long way in helping caregivers ensure optimum feeding practices –both at the hospital and at home.2

EFCNI presents multiple standards of care for nutrition, of which the role of nutrient supplements for preterm infants is a crucial component. Other standards of care for nutrition include:

  • Effective implementation of early parenteral feeding
  • Establishment of enteral feeding in preterm infants
  • Family education and training on infant feeding in the unit and after discharge
  • Feeding of late preterm infants
  • Monitoring growth in the neonatal unit
  • Providing mother’s own milk for preterm infants
  • Guidance on the role of human milk banks
  • Insights on the role of nutrient supplements for preterm infants
  • Guidance regarding the role of preterm formula
  • Written standards of nutritional practice

The EFCNI standards inform about the importance of providing supplements to reduce the risk of nutritional deficits, providing training materials for healthcare professionals on how to conduct screenings for nutritional deficiencies as well as advice on prescriptions, available supplements and more.

Based on an interdisciplinary collaboration among more than 220 people from 31 countries, EFCNI includes experts from different backgrounds including obstetrics, neonatology, paediatrics, psychology as well as parents. The collaboration between parents and healthcare providers ensures the standards are based on the latest science and tailored for all key stakeholders, namely parents and healthcare practitioners. Supporting organizations like DSM help make them a reality in the marketplace.

Set preterm infants on a path to a long, healthy life

The standards state that fortified human milk and preterm infant formulas meet most nutritional requirements for preterm infants, when provided along nutrient adapted feeding

guidelines. However, EFCNI also notes “the intake of some macro- or micronutrients is often inadequate. This may result from both the specific medical condition and poor nutritional intake.”

A variety of dietary supplements can bridge the gap between required and actual nutrient intake. Some of the more critical nutrients include fat-soluble vitamins, iron, zinc, sodium and protein.

Van Dael also said, “We are pleased to see that the EFCNI standards of care provide guidance regarding the key role of nutrition in management of preterm infants and focus on the role of omega-3 fatty acids, fat-soluble vitamins, iron, zinc, sodium and protein. We look forward to further collaborations with parents, caretakers, the medical community and EFCNI itself on ways that the nutritional care of preterm infants can be managed adequately at global level and even can be further optimized.”

The short-term benefits of nutritional supplements for preterm infants include a reduced risk of nutrient deficits while the long-term benefits include reduced risk of long-term growth faltering, anaemia and rickets.

Developing optimal nutritional support for each preterm infant requires expert advice as well as solutions that enable tailored nutritional support for each preterm infant. Here at DSM, we are dedicated to serving the needs of preterm infants to help set them on a path to a long, healthy life.

For more information about how DSM supports infant nutrition, visit our preconception & childhood nutrition page.


DSM and Early Life Nutrition

Watch now to learn how DSM is actively contributing to early life nutrition.

Published on

30 July 2019


  • Essentials for early life
  • Vitamins
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Industry News
  • Marketing


3 min read

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