Imagine a tiny premature baby born more than four months early and weighing about a pound. 

The advanced technology of modern medicine can support this life outside the womb. But how does the tiny baby feed?

This is one of the biggest challenges facing neonatologists. The baby should be growing very rapidly – including huge growth and development of the brain – but the nutrition the baby gets suddenly has to support many additional functions, usually taken care of by the intrauterine environment. 

The baby’s gut also has to handle food – and a gut microbiome – long before it was expecting to, and babies this preterm cannot coordinate sucking and swallowing, meaning they need feeding by tube, missing out on important sensory stimuli.

This talk will explore the challenges of feeding premature babies and look at the latest New Zealand research trying to answer some of the most pressing questions.


Professor Frank Bloomfield is a Neonatologist and Director of the Liggins Institute, a research institute focused on how the early life environment has life-long impact. He has practised as a neonatologist in New Zealand for more than 25 years and is passionate about nutrition and growth of the fetus and newborn baby.

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Last updated: 24 March 2021