Two speeds of increasing milk feeds for very preterm or very low-birthweight infants: the SIFT RCT

SIFT Investigators Group, Omar Omar, Tracy Roberts, Warda Tahir, Mark Monahan

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Observational data suggest that slowly advancing enteral feeds in preterm infants may reduce necrotising enterocolitis but increase late-onset sepsis. The Speed of Increasing milk Feeds Trial (SIFT) compared two rates of feed advancement.


To determine if faster (30 ml/kg/day) or slower (18 ml/kg/day) daily feed increments improve survival without moderate or severe disability and other morbidities in very preterm or very low-birthweight infants.


This was a multicentre, two-arm, parallel-group, randomised controlled trial. Randomisation was via a web-hosted minimisation algorithm. It was not possible to safely and completely blind caregivers and parents.


The setting was 55 UK neonatal units, from May 2013 to June 2015.


The participants were infants born at < 32 weeks’ gestation or a weight of < 1500 g, who were receiving < 30 ml/kg/day of milk at trial enrolment.


When clinicians were ready to start advancing feed volumes, the infant was randomised to receive daily feed increments of either 30 ml/kg/day or 18 ml/kg/day. In total, 1400 infants were allocated to fast feeds and 1404 infants were allocated to slow feeds.

Main outcome measures

The primary outcome was survival without moderate or severe neurodevelopmental disability at 24 months of age, corrected for gestational age. The secondary outcomes were mortality; moderate or severe neurodevelopmental disability at 24 months corrected for gestational age; death before discharge home; microbiologically confirmed or clinically suspected late-onset sepsis; necrotising enterocolitis (Bell’s stage 2 or 3); time taken to reach full milk feeds (tolerating 150 ml/kg/day for 3 consecutive days); growth from birth to discharge; duration of parenteral feeding; time in intensive care; duration of hospital stay; diagnosis of cerebral palsy by a doctor or other health professional; and individual components of the definition of moderate or severe neurodevelopmental disability.


The results showed that survival without moderate or severe neurodevelopmental disability at 24 months occurred in 802 out of 1224 (65.5%) infants allocated to faster increments and 848 out of 1246 (68.1%) infants allocated to slower increments (adjusted risk ratio 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.92 to 1.01). There was no significant difference between groups in the risk of the individual components of the primary outcome or in the important hospital outcomes: late-onset sepsis (adjusted risk ratio 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.86 to 1.07) or necrotising enterocolitis (adjusted risk ratio 0.88, 95% confidence interval 0.68 to 1.16). Cost–consequence analysis showed that the faster feed increment rate was less costly but also less effective than the slower rate in terms of achieving the primary outcome, so was therefore found to not be cost-effective. Four unexpected serious adverse events were reported, two in each group. None was assessed as being causally related to the intervention.


The study could not be blinded, so care may have been affected by knowledge of allocation. Although well powered for comparisons of all infants, subgroup comparisons were underpowered.


No clear advantage was identified for the important outcomes in very preterm or very low-birthweight infants when milk feeds were advanced in daily volume increments of 30 ml/kg/day or 18 ml/kg/day. In terms of future work, the interaction of different milk types with increments merits further examination, as may different increments in infants at the extremes of gestation or birthweight.

Trial registration

Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN76463425.


This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme and will be published in full in Health Technology Assessment; Vol. 24, No. 18. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages126
JournalHealth Technology Assessment
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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