Background: One of the limiting factors for early hospital discharge in preterm infants is their inability to feed sufficiently to obtain consistent weight gain. Therefore, feeding difficulty is one of the most significant issues with which a preterm infant is faced.
Objectives: The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of oral sensory motor stimulation on feeding performance, length of hospital stay, and weight gain in preterm infants at 30 - 32 weeks of gestational age.
Patients and methods: Premature infants (n = 20) were randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. The experimental group received oral sensory motor stimulation of the oral structures (15 minutes / day) for 10 successive days, while these stimulations were not offered to the control group. Days elapsed to achieve oral feeding, length of hospital stay, and weight gain in the two groups were assessed.
Results: Transition to oral feeding was acquired significantly earlier in the infants in the experimental group than in the controls: 13 and 26 days, respectively (P < 0.001). Likewise, the length of hospitalization was significantly shorter in the experimental group than in the control group: 32 days and 38 days, correspondingly (P < 0.05). The two groups showed no significant difference in terms of weight gain in the first, second, third, and fourth weeks of birth: first week: 100 vs. 110; second week: 99 vs. 111; third week: 120 vs. 135; and fourth week: 129 vs. 140.
Conclusions: The present research revealed that the number of days to reach oral feeding in our preterm babies was decreased by oral motor stimulation, which in turn conferred earlier hospital discharge.
Keywords: Hospital; Preterm Infant; Weight Gain.