Objective: To determine the influence of non-nutritive sucking and oral stimulation programs on breastfeeding rates at discharge, at 3 and at 6 months of corrected age in preterm infants with very low birth weight.
Methods: Preterm infants were randomized into experimental and control groups. Ninety-eight preterm infants were randomized and 96 remained in the study until reaching the corrected age of 6 months. The experimental group received sensory-motor-oral stimulation and non-nutritive sucking, while infants in the control group received a sham stimulation program. Both were administered from reaching enteral feeding (100 kcal/kg/day) until the beginning of oral feeding.
Results: Fifty-nine infants (61.5%) were breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge, 31 (36.9%) at 3 months, and only 18 (20.5%) at 6 months of corrected age. At discharge, 46.9% of the control group and 76.5% of the experimental group were breastfeeding. There were statistically significant differences between rates of breastfeeding at discharge (47 vs. 76%), 3 months (18 vs. 47%) and 6 months after discharge (10 vs. 27%). The experimental group showed significantly higher rates of breastfeeding (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Non-nutritive sucking, associated with oral stimulation programs, can contribute to the improvement of breastfeeding rates among preterm infants with very low birth weight.