Aim To determine availability of guidelines for enteral feeding of preterm neonates in UK neonatal units.
Methods A questionnaire was sent to UK clinicians who care for infants <30 weeks’ gestation and/or ⩽1500 g birth weight, including questions about availability of guidelines for initiation, progression and discontinuation of feeds.
Results 258/625 (41.3%) clinicians responded, with at least one response from 134/168 (80%) units. Neonatologists were more likely to respond than general paediatricians contributing to neonatal care (P = 0.006). 52% indicated they had guidelines for feed initiation, 39% for progression, and 16% for discontinuation. Where ⩾2 responses came from one NNU (56% responding NNUs), these conflicted on 38%, 29% and 23% of occasions respectively. Responses indicated availability of guidelines for initiation in 42–64% of units, progression in 33–49%, discontinuation in 10–23%. 32%–53% of NNUs had no guideline for any aspect of feeding; less than 20% had guidelines for all three.
Conclusions Availability of guidelines is variable and may be as low as 10% for some aspects of feeding. Senior clinicians’ knowledge of guidelines is limited. Resulting variation in practice may influence important outcomes.