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ARS Home » Plains Area » Houston, Texas » Children's Nutrition Research Center » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #228818

Title: Maturation of oral feeding skills in preterm infants

item Shulman, Robert
item Schanler, Richard - Rich

Submitted to: Acta Paediatrica
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2007
Publication Date: 1/1/2008
Citation: Amaizu, N., Shulman, R.J., Schanler, R.J., Lau, C. 2008. Maturation of oral feeding skills in preterm infants. Acta Paediatrica. 97(1):61-67.

Interpretive Summary: Preterm infants must develop the ability to suck, swallow, and breathe in a coordinated fashion. This study sought to determine if these processes develop in coordination with each other. Sixteen preterm infants between 26 and 29 weeks gestational age had measurements made of these processes over time. Feeding efficiency and suck, swallow, and breathing improved generally over time. However, the rate at which they developed generally were independent of each other in that they occurred at different times and rates. Their development depended more on their age at birth than how old they were (postnatal age).

Technical Abstract: Safe and successful oral feeding requires proper maturation of sucking, swallowing and respiration. We hypothesized that oral feeding difficulties result from different temporal development of the musculatures implicated in these functions. Sixteen medically stable preterm infants (26 to 29 weeks gestation, GA) were recruited. Specific feeding skills were monitored as indirect markers for the maturational process of oral feeding musculatures: rate of milk intake (mL/min); percent milk leakage (lip seal); sucking stage, rate (#/s) and suction/expression ratio; suction amplitude (mmHg), rate and slope (mmHg/s); sucking/swallowing ratio; percent occurrence of swallows at specific phases of respiration. Coefficients of variation (COV) were used as indices of functional stability. Infants, born at 26/27- and 28/29-week GA, were at similar postmenstrual ages (PMA) when taking 1-2 and 6-8 oral feedings per day. Over time, feeding efficiency and several skills improved, some decreased and others remained unchanged. Differences in COVs between the two GA groups demonstrated that, despite similar oral feeding outcomes, maturation levels of certain skills differed. Components of sucking, swallowing, respiration, and their coordinated activity matured at different times and rates. Differences in functional stability of particular outcomes confirm that maturation levels depend on infants' gestational rather than PMA.