Episode 58: Diet & Nutrition in the NICU

hand to hold NICU Babies Parent Support podcast, keli hawthorne

Guest: Keli Hawthorne, Registered Dietitian

Diet and nutrition are top priorities in helping your baby grow and thrive in the NICU. Registered dietitian Keli Hawthorne shares how you can play a pivotal role in your baby’s daily nutrition. 

 In this episode, we chat about:

  • Why did you choose to pursue a career in nutrition and dietetics, specifically neonatal/pediatric?
  • What’s the difference between a nutritionist and a dietitian?
  • Where can parents go for assistance and help?
  • When should a parent consider seeking occupational / feeding therapy?
  • What are some questions a parent should ask their child’s nutritionist/dietitian?
  • What are the pros/cons of milk fortification in micropreemies or babies smaller than 1600kg?
  • You led the effort in getting FDA approval for intravenous omega-3 fatty acid lipid emulsions, but what does that mean for the average NICU baby?


Keli Hawthorne, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian and the Director for Clinical Research for the Department of Pediatrics at the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. Prior to UT, Keli worked as a NICU dietitian and researcher for over 15 years.

Her research background focuses on neonatal and pediatric nutrition including mineral absorption, intestinal failure, and human milk fortification for premature infants. Keli was a leader in the national efforts to obtain FDA approval for intravenous omega-3 fatty acid lipid emulsions for infants and children in the US with severe liver damage. She was honored with the Texas Distinguished Scientist Award from the Texas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and is a past recipient of the Emerging Dietetic Leader award and Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year. When Keli is not in Austin, she can be found at her nearby cattle ranch.

Connect with Keli:



Website: dellmed.utexas.edu

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Hand to Hold is a national nonprofit dedicated to providing neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) parents with personalized emotional support, educational resources and community before, during and after their baby’s NICU stay. NICU support is available at no cost to NICU parents in English and Spanish.

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This page was last modified on Mar 17, 2023 @ 12:48 pm. If you see any information that needs to be updated or corrected, please contact info@handtohold.org.