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Cup introduction, drink type and vitamin supplementation in preterm babies at 11–25 months

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How to cite this article Milton J. & King C. (2012) Cup introduction, drink type and vitamin supplementation in preterm babies at 11–25 months. J Hum Nutr Diet. 25, 148–154

Background:  To avoid adverse effects of prolonged bottle use, the recommendations are that full‐term babies are introduced to cups from 6 months and discouraged bottles from 12 months old. There are no recommendations for preterm babies. In the UK, the Department of Heath recommends the introduction of vitamin supplements, alongside the transition from formula to cow’s milk. The present study aimed to determine age of cup introduction in a group of preterm babies, identify drinks offered from bottles versus cups and the types of cups used, and establish the prevalence and appropriateness of vitamin supplementation.

Methods:  A validated postal questionnaire was sent to the parents of 369 babies born <34 weeks of gestation at Queen Charlottes Neonatal Unit; 104 sent in 2003 and 265 sent in 2004–2005. The questionnaire was sent when the babies were calculated to be between 12 and 18 months (all ages stated are uncorrected). A separate questionnaire was sent for each baby from multiple pregnancies.

Results:  The questionnaire return rate was 46% (n = 169). Length of gestation (P < 0.001), hospital stay (P = 0.009), birth weight (P = 0.002) and maternal age (P < 0.001) were significantly greater and more mothers were of European origin (P = 0.036) for those babies for whom questionnaires were returned compared to nonresponders. Infant gender did not differ. Fifty‐seven percent had been introduced to a cup before 12 months, distribution was: 58% (n = 53) of singletons, 54% (n = 37) of twins and 67% (n = 6) of triplets. This rose to 80% before 13 months. Thirteen percent (n = 22) had not started drinking from a cup and 17% (n = 29) only used cups at the time of the questionnaire. Cow’s milk had been introduced to 69% (n = 117) of all babies and 32% (n = 54) were still on formula (10 on both and eight were on neither; hence, the figures do not sum to 100%). Cow’s milk was drunk from bottles by 56% (n = 95) and formula by 31% (n = 52). A significantly greater proportion of twins and triplets were drinking cow’s milk compared to singletons [80% (n = 62) versus 60% (n = 55) P = 0.005] and significantly fewer were drinking formula [22% (n = 17) versus 40% (n = 37) P = 0.012]. Water was the drink most commonly given from a cup (80%) (n = 135) followed by juice, which was given to 64% (n = 108). Juice drinks were given by bottle in 16% (n = 27). Fifty‐two percent (n = 88) used a ‘spill‐proof’ cup some of the time. Vitamins were given as recommended in 18% (n = 31), given even though not recommended in 12% (n = 20), not given but recommended in 49% (n = 83) and appropriately not given in 21% (n = 35). A greater percentage of twins and triplets, compared to singletons, were not commenced on vitamins, even though they were no longer drinking formula.

Conclusions:  The present study reports baseline data on cup introduction in preterm babies both from singleton and multiple births. The data suggest that education about appropriate bottle drinks, timing of cup introduction, suitable cups and the correct use of vitamin drops is required. However, because the profile of responders differed from nonresponders, these results may not be applicable to all preterm babies.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department Dietetics, Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London, UK

Publication date: 01 April 2012

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