Quantitative Evaluation of Infant's Nonnutritive and Nutritive Sucking
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Two important aspects of the clinical feeding evaluation of infants are the assessment of their nonnutritive and nutritive sucking skills. Nonnutritive sucking is monitored routinely by using a gloved finger and nutritive sucking by observing infants' sucking while bottle feeding. This approach, however, provides only a subjective and descriptive evaluation. In this study, we developed a finger pressure device that allows for quantification of specific measures of nonnutritive sucking. We are proposing that its use, in combination with the nipple/bottle system developed for the monitoring of nutritive sucking, will allow therapists to conduct objective and quantitative evaluations of infants' nonnutritive and nutritive sucking. The suction and expression components of sucking are monitored via two catheters placed at the tip of the index finger of a disposable glove and at the tip of a bottle nipple. The observations made from the standard clinical feeding evaluation and from these two instruments were compared. In addition to providing quantitative measures of sucking, the latter techniques allowed the review/reassessment of data, the monitoring of the maturation of oral motor skills over time, and the comparison of these measures between infants. It is proposed that the concurrent use of these devices will allow therapists to conduct more objective and detailed evaluations of infants' feeding skills than can be obtained at present.
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