Affiliations: Department of Pediatrics/Neonatology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA | School of Physical & Occupational Therapy, McGill University, Montreal, QC, Canada
Note:  Corresponding author: Dr. Chantal Lau, Baylor College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, One Baylor Plaza, BCM 320, Houston TX 77030, USA. Tel.: +1 832 8261384; Fax: +1 832 8252799; E-mail: [email protected]
Abstract: We have shown that the provision of a nonnutritive oral motor therapy (NNOMT) or infant massage therapy (iMT) provided singly and in combination vs. no intervention shortens the number of days from start to independent oral feeding in very low birth weight infants. This study hypothesizes that infants who benefited from NNOMT and/or iMT will demonstrate enhanced maturation of their oral feeding skills (OFS) when compared to control counterparts. OFS levels were monitored using a recently developed scale that takes into account their nutritive sucking skills and endurance at time of assessment. It is a simple method that requires only the additional reading of the volume taken 5 minutes into the start of a feeding and information routinely recorded in patients' medical chart. Four OFS levels were identified, characterized by infant's proficiency (% volume taken during the first 5 min/volume prescribed) and rate of transfer monitored over the entire feeding session (ml/min); OFS level 1 being the most immature and 4 the most mature. In parallel with the benefits provided by NNOMT and/or iMT, we demonstrate the direct positive impact these interventions have on accelerating the maturation of infants' oral feeding skills.