RATIONALE, AIMS AND OBJECTIVES:
This article aims to provide evidence to guide multidisciplinary clinical practitioners towards successful initiation and long-term maintenance of oral feeding in preterm infants, directed by the individual infant maturity.
A comprehensive review of primary research, explorative work, existing guidelines, and evidence-based opinions regarding the transition to oral feeding in preterm infants was studied to compile this document.
Current clinical hospital practices are described and challenged and the principles of cue-based feeding are explored. "Traditional" feeding regimes use criteria, such as the infant's weight, gestational age and being free of illness, and even caregiver intuition to initiate or delay oral feeding. However, these criteria could compromise the infant and increase anxiety levels and frustration for parents and caregivers. Cue-based feeding, opposed to volume-driven feeding, lead to improved feeding success, including increased weight gain, shorter hospital stay, fewer adverse events, without increasing staff workload while simultaneously improving parents' skills regarding infant feeding. Although research is available on cue-based feeding, an easy-to-use clinical guide for practitioners could not be found. A cue-based infant feeding regime, for clinical decision making on providing opportunities to support feeding success in preterm infants, is provided in this article as a framework for clinical reasoning.
Cue-based feeding of preterm infants requires care providers who are trained in and sensitive to infant cues, to ensure optimal feeding success. An easy-to-use clinical guideline is presented for implementation by multidisciplinary team members. This evidence-based guideline aims to improve feeding outcomes for the newborn infant and to facilitate the tasks of nurses and caregivers.