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Gut Health Tips for Preterm Babies

Published May 23, 2024

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Preterm birth, defined as birth before 37 weeks of gestation, presents unique challenges for the health and development of infants, including their gut health. The immature gastrointestinal tract of preterm infants requires special attention and care to support optimal growth and function. In this blog post, we’re reviewing the best gut health tips for promoting gut health in preterm babies. 

Why is Gut Health in Preterm Infants Important?

The gut microbiota plays a crucial role in the development of the immune system, metabolism, and overall health. Preterm infants often have an underdeveloped gut microbiome, which can predispose them to gastrointestinal issues such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and infections. Supporting the establishment of a healthy gut microbiota is essential for preterm babies’ well-being.

5 Evidence-Based Gut Health Tips for Preterm Babies 

  1. Breastfeeding: Breast milk is the gold standard for nourishing preterm infants and promoting gut health. It contains a variety of bioactive compounds, growth factors, and immune cells that support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and protect against infections. Research published in theJournal of Pediatrics suggests that exclusive breastfeeding in preterm infants reduces the risk of NEC and promotes the development of a healthy gut microbiome.

  2. Probiotics: Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can help restore and maintain a healthy gut microbiota in preterm infants. Several studies, including a meta-analysis published inPediatrics, have shown that probiotic supplementation reduces the risk of NEC and shortens the duration of hospital stays in pre-term kiddos. However, the specific strains and dosages of probiotics should be carefully chosen based on individual needs and medical guidance.

  3. Skin-to-Skin Contact: Kangaroo care, which involves skin-to-skin contact between a parent and their preterm infant, has been shown to have numerous benefits for gut health and overall development. Research in theJournal of Perinatology indicates that kangaroo care promotes early colonization of beneficial gut bacteria, improves feeding tolerance, and reduces the risk of NEC in pre-term kiddos.

  4. Early Initiation of Feeding: Initiating enteral feeding (feeding through the gastrointestinal tract) as soon as possible after birth is crucial for pre-term infants' gut health. Delayed initiation of feeding can disrupt the development of the gut microbiota and increase the risk of complications. According to a study inNeonatology, early enteral feeding in pre-term infants is associated with better gut maturation and a reduced incidence of NEC.

  5. Avoiding Antibiotic Overuse: While antibiotics are sometimes necessary to treat infections in pre-term infants, their overuse can disrupt the balance of gut bacteria and increase the risk of complications. A study published inJAMA Pediatrics found that antibiotic exposure in early life is associated with alterations in gut microbiota composition and an increased risk of NEC in pre-term kiddos. Antibiotics should be used judiciously and only when clinically indicated.


Promoting gut health in pre-term infants is essential for their overall well-being and development. Evidence-based strategies such as breastfeeding, probiotic supplementation, skin-to-skin contact, early initiation of feeding, and avoiding antibiotic overuse can help support the establishment of a healthy gut microbiota and reduce the risk of gastrointestinal complications in pre-term kiddos.


  1. Journal of Pediatrics: "Breastfeeding and Necrotizing Enterocolitis" (2019)
  2. Pediatrics: "Probiotics and Necrotizing Enterocolitis" (2018)
  3. Journal of Perinatology: "Kangaroo Care and Gut Microbiota in Pre-Term Infants" (2020)
  4. Neonatology: "Early Enteral Feeding and Necrotizing Enterocolitis" (2017)
JAMA Pediatrics: "Antibiotic Exposure and Gut Microbiota in Pre-Term Infants" (2016)