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Enteral feeding is the preferred method of nutrient provision for preterm infants. Though parenteral nutrition remains an alternative to provide critical nutrition after preterm delivery, the literature suggests that enteral feeding still confers significant nutritional and non-nutritional benefits. Therefore, the purpose of this narrative review is to summarize health and clinical benefits of early enteral feeding within the first month of life in preterm infants. Likewise, this review also proposes methods to improve enteral delivery in clinical care, including a proposal for decision-making of initiation and advancement of enteral feeding. An extensive literature review assessed enteral studies in preterm infants with subsequent outcomes. The findings support the early initiation and advancement of enteral feeding impact preterm infant health by enhancing micronutrient delivery, promoting intestinal development and maturation, stimulating microbiome development, reducing inflammation, and enhancing brain growth and neurodevelopment. Clinicians must consider these short- and long-term implications when caring for preterm infants.

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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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