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Simple intervention by mothers can help preemies to feed normally, study

Posted:  Monday, April 06, 2015

Feeding premature babies by mouth could be difficult as they are less alert, face difficulty to interact socially and gain weight. A recent study by American researchers has found that this issue could be sorted if the mothers act naturally during feeding. They found that when mothers used voice, moderate touch massage, eye-to-eye contact and rocking while feeding, similar to the stimulation that full-term infants received, then the premature infant’s ability to suck was improved.

Published in the journal Advances in Neonatal Care, the study compared 183 healthy but premature babies born at 29-34 weeks gestation from low-income families. Half of the mothers of the premature babies learnt the Audio, Tactile, Visual and Vestibular (ATVV) intervention wherein for the 1st 10 minutes, the mothers made eye contact with the babies while talking, stoking or massaging them. They followed it up with 5 minutes of rocking.

The other group only received general educational materials on premature infant care. The baby’s sucking during feeding was digitally recorded using a controlled-flow baby feeder. The researchers collected the data before the commencement of the study and then after 7 days when the baby was discharged.

The researchers found that by the 7th day, the number of times the baby sucked, number of times it sucked during a sucking burst and a composite score of the baby’s sucking maturity was significantly higher for the babies in the ATVV group. By the 14th day, these babies were exerting more pressure on the nipple.

“Feeding is critical, since it is the primary factor of infant growth. Failure to coordinate breathing, sucking and swallowing can cause babies to experience feeding-related disorders such as apnea, a slow beating heart, oxygen desaturation and tiredness during feeding,” said one of the researchers. The results of the study holds great potential as paediatricians and lactation counselors could use this knowledge to increase awareness among mothers facing difficulty to feed premature infants

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