Introduction: Non-nutritive sucking (NNS) plays an important role in stabilizing the preterm, providing oral muscle training opportunity for nutritive sucking (NS). We aim to determine if the prototype tested allows a precise evaluation of suction pattern characteristics (rhythmic structure and pressure). We also aim to investigate the role of maturation in the variation of NNS an NS pattern in preterm infants.
Methods: The patented prototype is non-invasive, low-cost and easily applicable to clinical ecological practice, measures the pressure exerted on a pacifier in newborn’s mouth. Samples were acquired continuously during a 10-minute period in 12 preterm (mean gestational age [GA] 29.9 ± 1.6 weeks) and 4 term neonates (GA 39.5 ± 1.4 weeks). Bursts, suctions per burst, pauses, suction frequency and pressure were analyzed to describe temporal structure and dynamic characteristics of NNS.
Results: The NNS pattern was characterized by bursts duration 4.3 ± 2.2 s, number of sucks per burst 7.4 ± 3.2, sucking frequency 2.1 ± 0.4 Hz and sucking pressure 10.3 ± 4.5 mmHg. There were significant differences between the preterm and term groups in NNS sucking frequency (2.1 Hz vs 1.6 Hz; p = 0.008).
Conclusion: The device is non-invasive and can easily be used in clinical practice in low GA newborns, in an ecological environment. It allows the evaluation of NNS patterns maturation and, at the same time, the use of the device pacifier promotes NNS, which is important in the process of acquiring feeding autonomy in preterm infants.