New Nursing Innovations Help Premature Babies Suck, Swallow and Breathe More Easily

Sue Thoyer-Web Dr. Suzanne Thoyre

Premature babies have difficulty eating and breathing at the same time. Monitoring their nutrition and understanding the rhythms of eating and breathing is essential to weight-gain and good health.

The National Institutes of Health awarded $398,545 funding for two years to Dr. Sue Thoyre to complete an intervention study with mothers of premature infants “Guiding Mothers to Co-Regulate Oral Feeding with Very Preterm Infants.” The intent of this 2-year study is to extend an innovative and successful nurse-delivered feeding intervention to one delivered by mothers. An innovative component of the intervention is use of the audio trainer©, a small microphone placed over the infant’s larynx to sensitize the mother to the infant’s breathing and swallowing rhythms.

Dr. Thoyre previously developed CoReg intervention protocol will be refined for guiding mothers to provide the intervention and a pilot study will be conducted using a sequential cohort design. The specific aims of the study are to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention for mothers, the research nurse-guide’s ability to execute the intervention with mothers, and the feasibility of the data collection procedures. In addition, the magnitude of the effect of the intervention on maternal feeding response (co-regulation feeding strategies), infant feeding regulation (behavioral organization, fluid management, work of breathing, physiologic stability), and infant feeding outcomes (feeding skill development, growth, and length of hospitalization) will be determined.

According to Dr. Thoyre, her study meets the National Institute for Nursing Research’s goal to develop bio-behavioral intervention strategies to optimize health of vulnerable populations and will provide a needed evidence base for guiding mothers to feed the most difficult-to-feed infants in neonatal care.