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How does non-nutritive sucking support infant feeding?

Harding, C., Frank, L., Van Someren, V. , Hilari, K. & Botting, N. (2014). How does non-nutritive sucking support infant feeding?. Infant Behavior and Development, 37(4), pp. 457-464. doi: 10.1016/j.infbeh.2014.05.002


Fifty nine premature infants participated in a randomized controlled study to determine the effectiveness of non-nutritive sucking (NNS). It was predicted that NNS would not accelerate the development of full oral feeding or early language skills as sometimes perceived in practice. However, it was predicted that using NNS as a strategy to support parents to identify and respond to early communication and oral readiness signs would increase confidence in infant management and enable quicker discharge home. Infants were aged 26-35 weeks gestation. Infants with no significant difficulties were randomly assigned to one of three groups; Group 1, NNS pre-tube feeding (n=19); Group 2, NNS on onset of tube feeding (n=20) and Group 3, Control (n=20). Follow-up occurred at 6 months. There were no significant differences with number of days to full oral feeding between the groups receiving NNS and the Control group, χ(2)(2, n=59)=4.33, p=.115. A significant difference in number of days in hospital between the Control group and the other two groups was found χ(2) (2, n=59)=7.678, p=.022. Significant changes were noted with the development of more normal sucking patterns in Groups 1-3. At 6 months there were no significant differences in receptive or expressive language skills between all groups. NNS had no significant impact on the transition to full oral feeding or later language development. There was a significant difference in the number of days in hospital between the Control group and the other two groups which involved parents in identification of early communication signs. Possible reasons for this change and future directions are discussed.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Infant Behavior and Development. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Infant Behavior and Development Volume 37, Issue 4, November 2014, Pages 457–464,
Publisher Keywords: Early communication, Full oral feeding, Non-nutritive sucking, Oral readiness
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
R Medicine > RJ Pediatrics
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Language & Communication Science
Related URLs:
SWORD Depositor:
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