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For a premature baby, at what age should you start introducing complementary food?

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By : Nurturing Life's Nutrition Team | Montreal Diet Dispensary
— Updated on :
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For a baby born before term, it is recommended to use the corrected age of 6 months for the introduction of foods rather than the actual age of 6 months. At this age, the physiological functions necessary to eat food are generally developed.  

The premature child has been deprived of an important time to develop in the womb and therefore does not have the same capacity to be fed as a child born at term. Corrected age is used to accurately assess the stage of development of a child born prematurely. 

The corrected age of infants born before the 37th week of pregnancy is calculated using the expected date of birth rather than the actual date of birth. Generally, if the child was born one month in advance, we will introduce solid foods a month later than the age for a full-term infant of 6 months. For information about the time of introduction of complementary foods in infants born at term, click here. 

In premature infants, it is important to monitor motor, oral and cognitive development signs depending on the causes and degree of prematurity, medical conditions, complications and treatments received. 

It is very important to ensure that the premature baby shows every sign that it is ready to eat (at the corrected age of about 6 months) before offering any other food than breast milk or infant formula. It is important to respect the age of introduction of solids, because before this age, kidneys and immune system are still immature, and saliva and digestive enzymes production is insufficient. 

Since the premature baby is more vulnerable and has special needs, it usually requires a sustained monitoring of its growth and health during the early years of life, by a pediatrician and a nutritionist, especially during the period of transition towards complementary foods. If you are concerned about the development of the child, consult a pediatrician.

References

  • American Academy of Pediatrics. (2004). Age Terminology during the Perinatal Period. Pediatrics, 114(5), 1362-1364.
  • Centre de pédagogie appliquée aux sciences de la santé de l'Université de Montréal. (2012). L'ABCdaire du suivi périodique de l'enfant de 0 à 5 ans. http://www.cpass.umontreal.ca/documents/formation/outils_abcdaire/ABCdaireOctobre2012FINAL.pdf
  • Farano, S., Borsani, G. et Vigi, V. (2007). Complementary Feeding Practices in Preterm Infants: An Observational Study in a Cohort of Italian Infants. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 45(3), S210-S214.

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The views expressed herein do not necessarily represent the official views of the Public Health Agency of Canada.