This is an excerpt of a blog originally published on Evidently Cochrane.
In this blog for parents of preterm babies, paediatrician and Cochrane UK Fellow Rufaro Ndokera looks at Cochrane evidence on ways to help preterm babies feed orally.
You may have had this experience. Something unexpected – or perhaps expected has occurred in your pregnancy that means you will see your baby much sooner than planned. Someone from the neonatal team comes to speak to you, explains what to expect in the coming days, weeks and months, although can you ever be fully prepared? At the end of that chat there is often the question-how were you planning to feed?
At that point feeding may be the furthest thing from your mind but over the coming months it will pose a significant challenge to you and your baby. Regarding what to feed, we all know the old phrase ‘breast is best’, but in the preterm group, access to breast milk is so much more critical.
Regardless of whether it’s breast milk or preterm formula, in the run up to home time you may have been happily tube feeding your baby for the last weeks. For those who may not know, the tube I refer to is a nasogastric tube, from nose to tummy, allowing staff and parents to feed babies who are not yet ready to take sucking feeds. Then the time comes to put baby to the breast or offer a bottle. It may all come naturally to you and your little one but more likely it takes some time. Have you ever wondered if there was evidence about what else we could be doing in the run up to that day to make feeding more successful?
There has been a group of Cochrane systematic reviews, putting all available evidence from randomised controlled trials together, looking at ways we can hasten oral feeding in preterm babies. So, let’s have a look.