Background: The efficient and safe oral feeding of preterm infants, an essential criterion for hospital discharge, is affected by neurodevelopmental maturation. However, the timing of initiating oral feeding and its relation to maturation, feeding performance, and physiological responses are unclear. Purpose: The aim of this study was to determine the effect of a 1-week delay in the initiation of oral feeding on feeding performance, transition time, weight gain, and cardiorespiratory responses in preterm infants. Methods: In this randomized controlled trial, 40 infants with a gestational age at birth of less than 32 weeks were recruited. The control group (n = 18) began oral feeding when the infants were physiologically stable, whereas the experimental group (n = 22) began oral feeding 1 week later. Infant feeding performance, heart rate, and oxygen saturation were measured before, during, and after feeding on the first day of oral feeding and 3 days later. Daily weight gain was calculated by measuring body weight every morning, and transition time was calculated by counting the number of days from the initiation of oral feeding to the termination of tube feeding. Results: There were no significant differences between the two groups in terms of feeding performance, weight gain, or postmenstrual age at the completion of full oral feeding. The transition time was significantly shorter in the experimental group than in the control group. More infants in the control group experienced episodes of oxygen desaturation during feeding than in the experimental group. Conclusions/Implications for Practice: For infants with a postmenstrual age of greater than 32 weeks who are ready to initiate oral feeding, postponing oral bottle feeding for 1 week may be considered as an intervention to reduce physiological distress.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes