This study is an investigation of differences in regulatory problems (RPs; crying, sleeping, feeding) expressed by infants born very preterm (VP; <32 wk gestation) or with very low birth weight (VLBW; <1500 g) and infants born at full term (FT) during the first 18 months of life. It investigates the prevalence of single and multiple RPs, their persistence and how early in infancy RPs still found at 18 months of age can be predicted.
This prospective longitudinal study of 73 VP/VLBW and 105 FT infants utilized a standard interview of mothers to assess regulatory problems among the infants at term, 3, 6, and 18 months of age.
Few differences were found between VP/VLBW and FT infants in the first 6 months. At 18 months, VP/VLBW infants had more single sleeping (RR = 2.2, CI = 1.3–3.7), feeding (RR = 1.4, CI = 1.03–1.8), and multiple RPs (RR = 1.7, CI = 1.02–2.8) than FT infants. In VP/VLBW infants, RPs as early as 3 months and in FT infants RPs as early as 6 months predicted RPs at 18 months. Those infants who had persistent RPs in the first 6 months of life were more likely to still have RPs at 18 months.
VP/VLBW children are at slightly increased risk for RPs at term and in the second year of life. Clinicians should be aware that RPs that persist across the first 6 months point to increased risk of continuing RPs into toddlerhood in both VP/VLBW and FT infants.