Non-nutritive sucking and the preterm infant

Latoya Edwards, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Background. Preterm birth is major public health problem. Preterm infants face a post-natal environment that their under developed systems are inapt to manage. Developmentally supportive individualized care has demonstrated positive outcomes in minimizing resulting negative effects. Non-nutritive sucking (NNS) interventions are thought to promote the development of the suck-swallow-breathe mechanism and a calming tool. It is hypothesized that growth and development is maintained by strengthened sucking skills and stable behavioral states. Objective. To determine the importance of non-nutritive sucking (NNS) on outcomes that are clinically relevant to the preterm infant population. Methods. A computerized search of MEDLINE and PUBMED databases during the period of 1975 and May 2011 was conducted. Relevant articles were selected using published criteria for detecting clinically validated studies. The search yielded 10 randomized controlled studies relative to the outcomes of interest: weight gain, time to full feeds, time to discharge from hospital, and pain response. Results. NNS was found to decrease significantly the length of hospitalization in preterm infants. Although positive results were reported in some of the studies, the results did not show a consistent benefit of NNS with respect to other major clinical variables. NNS was shown to reduce distress following painful stimuli. Conclusion. Although NNS shows promise for the development of preterm infants, there is lack of agreement concerning some of the outcomes of interest. Evidence does support NNS's positive contribution to early hospital discharge and pain relief. Future research should focus on long-term, comparable outcomes.

Subject Area

Behavioral psychology|Nutrition

Recommended Citation

Edwards, Latoya, "Non-nutritive sucking and the preterm infant" (2011). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI1501000.