Nonnutritive sucking in high-risk infants: benign intervention or legitimate therapy?

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2002 Sep-Oct;31(5):582-91. doi: 10.1111/j.1552-6909.2002.tb00084.x.


Objective: To review the available research evidence on the effects of nonnutritive sucking (NNS) in high-risk full-term and preterm infants in neonatal nurseries.

Data sources: Electronic searches of MEDLINE (1976-2001) and CINAHL (1982-2001) databases, as well as the Cochrane Library. Reference lists of all relevant articles were also reviewed.

Study selection: Experimental and quasi-experimental studies that included hospitalized full-term and preterm infants, where NNS by pacifier was compared to no pacifier.

Data extraction: Results of studies were reviewed by two of the authors.

Data synthesis: As an intervention to promote behavioral outcomes and gastrointestinal function or feeding, there is little evidence to support the use of NNS in preterm and high-risk full-term infants. NNS has been linked to reduced length of hospital stay and improved pain management.

Conclusions: Although harmful effects have not been specifically studied, NNS in preterm and high-risk full-term infants does not appear to have any short-term negative effects. No long-term data on the effects of NNS in high-risk full-term and preterm infants are presently available. Based on the results of this review, it would seem reasonable for nurses to utilize pacifiers for pain management in high-risk full-term and preterm infants.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Evidence-Based Medicine*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant Care / standards*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature* / physiology
  • Infant, Premature* / psychology
  • Neonatal Nursing / methods*
  • Neonatal Nursing / standards
  • Nursing Evaluation Research
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy, High-Risk
  • Research Design
  • Risk Factors
  • Sucking Behavior* / physiology