Oral feeding in premature infants: advantage of a self-paced milk flow

Written By: Lau C, Schanler RJ.

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An earlier study demonstrated that oral feeding of premature infants (<30 wk gestation) was enhanced when milk was delivered through a self-paced flow system. The aims of this study were to identify the principle(s) by which this occurred and to develop a practical method to implement the self-paced system in neonatal nurseries. Feeding performance, measured by overall transfer, duration of oral feedings, efficiency, and percentage of successful feedings, was assessed at three time periods, when infants were taking 1–2, 3–5, and 6–8 oral feedings/day. At each time period, infants were fed, sequentially and in a random order, with a self-paced system, a standard bottle, and a test bottle, the shape of which allowed the elimination of the internal hydrostatic pressure. In a second study, infants were similarly fed with the self-paced system and a vacuum-free bottle which eliminated both hydrostatic pressure and vacuum within the bottle. The duration of oral feedings, efficiency, and percentage of successful feedings were improved with the self-paced system as compared to the standard and test bottles. The results were similar in the comparison between the self-paced system and the vacuum-free bottle. Elimination of the vacuum build-up naturally occurring in bottles enhances the feeding performance of infants born <30 wk gestation as they are transitioned from tube to oral feeding. The vacuum-free bottle is a tool which caretakers can readily use in neonatal nurseries.