Instruments for assessing readiness to commence suck feeds in preterm infants: effects on time to establish full oral feeding and duration of hospitalisation

Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Apr 18;(4):CD005586. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD005586.pub2.


Background: One of the most challenging milestones for preterm infants is the acquisition of safe and efficient feeding skills. The majority of healthy full term infants are born with skills to coordinate their suck, swallow and respiration. However, this is not the case for preterm infants who develop these skills gradually as they transition from tube feeding to suck feeds. For preterm infants the ability to engage in oral feeding behaviour is dependent on many factors. The complexity of factors influencing feeding readiness has led some researchers to investigate the use of an individualised assessment of an infant's abilities. A limited number of instruments that aim to indicate an individual infant's readiness to commence either breast or bottle feeding have been developed.

Objectives: To determine the effects of using a feeding readiness instrument when compared to no instrument or another instrument on the outcomes of time to establish full oral feeding and duration of hospitalisation.

Search methods: We used the standard methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group, including a search of the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (The Cochrane Library 2010, Issue 2), MEDLINE via EBSCO (1966 to July 2010), EMBASE (1980 to July 2010), CINAHL via EBSCO (1982 to July 2010), Web of Science via EBSCO (1980 to July 2010) and Health Source (1980 to July 2010). Other sources such as cited references from retrieved articles and databases of clinical trials were also searched. We did not apply any language restriction. We updated this search in March 2012.

Selection criteria: Randomised and quasi-randomised trials comparing a formal instrument to assess a preterm infant's readiness to commence suck feeds with either no instrument (usual practice) or another feeding readiness instrument.

Data collection and analysis: The standard methods of the Cochrane Neonatal Review Group were used. Two authors independently screened potential studies for inclusion. No studies were found that met our inclusion criteria.

Main results: No studies met the inclusion criteria.

Authors' conclusions: There is currently no evidence to inform clinical practice, with no studies meeting the inclusion criteria for this review. Research is needed in this area to establish an evidence base for the clinical utility of implementing the use of an instrument to assess feeding readiness in the preterm infant population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Bottle Feeding*
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature*
  • Sucking Behavior*
  • Time Factors