AN ASSESSMENT TOOL EVALUATING EARLY FEEDING SKILLS IN PRETERM INFANTS
Learning to feed is a challenge premature infants and other infants at risk of feeding problems, face during the newborn (neonatal) period.
The establishment of oral feeding is often a key factor in determining when premature infants can go home from the hospital that?s way there should be an effective tool to supervise and monitor their feeding condition.
As stated in a study in Advances in Neonatal Care, an official journal of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, infants born prematurely face challenges in developing the complex, interrelated skills needed for effective feeding. An assessment called the Early Feeding Skills (EFS) checklist is a valid and reliable tool for evaluating the emergence of feeding skills in preterm infants.
EFS is a 22-item checklist designed to assess oral feeding skills in infants feeding by breast or bottle.
Under the study, registered nurses, speech-language pathologists, and occupational therapists used the EFS, evaluating the feeding skills of 142 infants at children’s hospitals in three states.
Three-fourths of these infants were born prematurely and some were full-term infants who had undergone heart surgery.
Using a method called factor analysis, researchers identified a set of five (5) subscales measured by the EFS:
- respiratory regulation, or the ability to coordinate breathing and sucking;
- the ability to organize oral-motor function;
- swallowing coordination;
- staying engaged with feeding; and
- remaining physiologically stable during feeding.
All in all, these factors explained about 58 % of the variation in the EFS score and found that respiratory regulation is the single strongest factor.
“For preterm infants and those with medical complexities, early feeding skills are in a state of emergence while receiving neonatal care,” Dr. Thoyre and coauthors write. “Selecting appropriate and supportive interventions begins with thorough assessment of the infant’s skills.”
Erudite Nursing Institute? encourages nurse researchers to further study the reliability of EFS and add significant points of understanding about neonatal feeding skill development.
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