AIM To detect predictors of feeding tolerance in intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) infants with or without brain-sparing effect (BS). METHODS We conducted a case-control study in 70 IUGR infants (35 IUGR with BS, matched for gestational age with 35 IUGR infants with no BS). BS was classified as pulsatility index (PI) ratio [umbilical artery (UAPI) to middle cerebral artery (MCAPI) (U/C ratio)] > 1. Clinical parameters of feeding tolerance - days to achieve full enteral feeding (FEF) - were compared between the IUGR with BS and IUGR without BS infants. Age at the start of minimal enteral feeding (MEF) was analysed. RESULTS Achievement of FEF was significantly shorter in IUGR infants without BS than in IUGR with BS. IUGR with BS started MEF later than IUGR without BS infants. Significant correlation of MEF and FEF with UA PI, U/C ratio and CRIB score was found. Multiple linear regression analysis showed significant correlations with CRIB score and caffeine administration (MEF only), and sepsis (FEF only) and U/C ratio (for both). CONCLUSION Impaired gut function can be early detected by monitoring Doppler patterns and clinical parameters.