Sucking patterns in fullterm infants between birth and 10 weeks of age

Saakje da Costa, Cees van der Schans, Sarai R Boelema, Eva van der Meij, Mieke A Boerman, Arend F Bos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Coordinating sucking, swallowing and breathing to achieve effective sucking is a complex process and even though sucking is essential for nutrition, little is known about sucking patterns after birth. Our objective was to study sucking patterns in healthy fullterm infants and to describe the age-specific variations.

METHOD: We studied the sucking patterns of 30 healthy, fullterm infants longitudinally from 2 or 3 days after birth to 10 weeks of age. During this time we recorded five to seven feeding episodes that we assessed off-line with the Neonatal Oral-Motor Assessment Scale (NOMAS).

RESULTS: We found a normal sucking pattern on the second or third day after birth in 27 out of 30 infants. During the following weeks we found abnormal sucking patterns in 23 out of 171 feeding episodes (14%) and normal patterns in 148 episodes (86%). Altogether, between 38 and 50 weeks' postmenstrual age (10 weeks after birth), 10 infants displayed a deviating, arrhythmical sucking pattern. Dysfunctional sucking patterns and problems of coordinating sucking, swallowing and breathing did not occur. Birth weight, gestational age, type of labour and gender did not influence sucking patterns. Arrhythmical sucking was seen more often in bottle-fed infants.

CONCLUSION: Our study demonstrated that practically all healthy fullterm infants started off with a normal sucking pattern soon after birth. One-third of the infants displayed one or more deviating episodes up to the age of 10 weeks. Apart from bottle-feeding, no other factors were found that influenced sucking patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-67
JournalInfant behavior & development
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2010


  • bottle feeding
  • breast feeding
  • child development
  • feeding behavior
  • infants
  • infants, newborn
  • sucking behavior


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