Responsive Feeding for Preterm or Low Birth Weight Infants: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date







Suppl 1




BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Responsive feeding may improve health outcomes in preterm and low birth weight (LBW) infants. Our objective was to assess effects of responsive compared with scheduled feeding in preterm and LBW infants. METHODS: Data sources include PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, CINAHL, LILACS, and MEDICUS. Randomized trials were screened. Primary outcomes were mortality, morbidity, growth, neurodevelopment. Secondary outcomes were feed intolerance and duration of hospitalization. Data were extracted and pooled with random-effects models. RESULTS: Eleven eligible studies were identified, and data from 8 randomized control trials with 455 participants were pooled in the meta-analyses. At discharge, the mean difference in body weight between the intervention (responsive feeding) and comparison (scheduled feeding) was -2.80 g per day (95% CI -3.39 to -2.22, I2 = 0%, low certainty evidence, 4 trials, 213 participants); -0.99 g/kg per day (95% CI -2.45 to 0.46, I2 = 74%, very low certainty evidence, 5 trials, 372 participants); -22.21 g (95% CI -130.63 to 86.21, I2 = 41%, low certainty evidence, 3 trials, 183 participants). The mean difference in duration of hospitalization was -1.42 days (95% CI -5.43 to 2.59, I2 = 88%, very low certainty evidence, 5 trials, 342 participants). There were no trials assessing other growth outcomes (eg, length and head circumference) mortality, morbidity or neurodevelopment. Limitations include a high risk of bias, heterogeneity, and small sample size in included studies. CONCLUSIONS: Overall, responsive feeding may decrease in-hospital weight gain. Although the evidence is very uncertain, responsive feeding may slightly decrease the duration of hospitalization. Evidence was insufficient to understand the effects of responsive compared with scheduled feeding on mortality, morbidity, linear growth, and neurodevelopmental outcomes in preterm and LBW infants.


Exercise and Nutrition Sciences