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Neonatal Netw. 2001 Apr;20(3):7-14.

From gavage to oral feedings: just a matter of time.

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Department of Developmental Pediatrics, Riley Hospital for Children, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202-5200, USA.


The ability to safely and efficiently feed by mouth is based on oral-motor competence, neurobehavioral organization, and gastrointestinal maturity. Although most infants successfully make the transition to oral feedings as they approach term gestation, infants who were very immature at birth have historically had the most difficulty achieving this milestone. Postnatal complications (chronic lung disease, intraventricular hemorrhage, seizures, and so on) are also associated with delays in the onset of the first feeding, as well as with delays in achieving full enteral intake. Weaning the infant to breast is a slow and gradual process that may necessitate supplemental gavage or bottle feedings. A variety of measures--such as positioning, containment, reduced milk flow, and imposed rest breaks--may help to facilitate better oral intake, but infants probably benefit most from the passage of time. Frequently, the older the infant is at first feeding, the shorter the time required to make the transition to full oral feedings. Rather than attempting to accelerate the inherent maturational processes that form the basis for oral feeding, efforts might better be spent in providing adequate nutritional support while avoiding unnecessary stress and fatigue.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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