Aim: To explore the development of breastfeeding capacity in very preterm infants, as an immature sucking behaviour is often mentioned as a barrier in the establishment of breastfeeding in these infants.
Subjects and methods: A prospective descriptive design study in which mothers of 15 infants, born at gestational ages between 26 and 31 weeks, used the Preterm Infant Breastfeeding Behaviour Scale for daily assessments of their infants' oral motor behaviour in hospital. Semi-demand feeding with prescription of a total daily volume of milk was practiced during the transition from scheduled to demand feeding.
Results: Breastfeeding was initiated from a postmenstrual age (PMA) of 29 weeks. Obvious rooting, efficient areolar grasp, and repeated short sucking bursts were noted from 29 weeks, and occasional long sucking bursts and repeated swallowing from 31 weeks. The maximum number of consecutive sucks was limited to between 5 and 24 sucks, with a median of 17. Full breastfeeding was attained at a median of 35 weeks, between 32 and 38 weeks. The infants' weight gain when fully breastfed was adequate.
Conclusion: Very preterm infants have the capacity for early development of oral motor competence that it sufficient for establishment of full breastfeeding at a low postmenstrual age.