Objective: To study whether a cue-based clinical pathway for oral feeding initiation and advancement of premature infants would result in earlier achievement of full oral feeding.
Study design: Age of achievement of full oral intake was compared for two groups of preterm infants; a prospective study group vs historic cohort controls. Study infants had oral feedings managed by nurses using a clinical pathway that relied on infant behavioral readiness signs to initiate and advance oral feedings. Controls had oral feedings managed by physician orders.
Result: Fifty-one infants (n=28 study and n=23 control) were studied. Gender distribution, gestational age, birth weight and ventilator days were not different between groups. Study infants reached full oral feedings 6 days earlier than controls (36+/-1 3/7 weeks of postmenstrual age (PMA) vs 36 6/7+/-1 4/7 weeks of PMA, P=0.02).
Conclusion: The cue-based clinical pathway for oral feeding initiation and advancement of premature infants resulted in earlier achievement of full oral feeding.