Aim To investigate early medical and family factors associated with later feeding risk in preterm infants. Methods For this longitudinal study, 136 infants born ≤30 weeks gestation were enrolled. Medical and social background factors were assessed at term equivalent age. Infants underwent magnetic resonance imaging, neurobehavioral evaluation and feeding assessment. Parent involvement in the neonatal intensive care unit was tracked, and maternal mental health was assessed at neonatal intensive care unit discharge. At age 2 years, feeding outcome was assessed using the Eating Subscale of the Infant-Toddler Social Emotional Assessment (n = 80). Associations between feeding problems at age 2 years and (i) early medical factors, (ii) neurobehavioral functioning and feeding at term equivalent age, (iii) cerebral structure and (iv) maternal mental health were investigated using regression. Results Eighteen (23%) children had feeding problems at age 2 years. Feeding problems were associated with early hypotonia (p = 0.03; β = 0.29) and lower socio-economic status (p = 0.046; β = -0.22). No associations were observed between early medical factors, early feeding performance, cerebral structure alterations or maternal well-being and feeding outcome. Conclusion Early hypotonia may disrupt the development of oral-motor skills. Hypotonia and poor feeding also may share a common aetiology. Associations with lower socio-economic status highlight the potential influence of family background factors in feeding problems in the preterm infant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e539-e545
JournalActa Paediatrica, International Journal of Paediatrics
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2013


  • Feeding
  • Neonatal intensive care unit
  • Outcome
  • Socio-economic status
  • hypotonia
  • preterm


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