The effect of the odour of mother's milk on breastfeeding behaviour of premature neonates

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To assess the effects of exposure to the odour of mother's milk on breastfeeding behaviour of premature neonates.


Thirteen preterm infants born at 30–33 weeks gestational age were tested. Seven infants were randomly assigned to the milk-odour condition, 6 to the water-control condition. During week 35 post-conceptual age, each baby was exposed to the appropriate odour stimulus for 120 sec. on 5 consecutive days immediately prior to a breastfeeding attempt. The breastfeeding bout following the final odour exposure session, and a second breastfeeding session shortly before the baby left the hospital, were analysed. Babies were weighed before and after each feeding session.


During each breastfeeding session, babies in the milk-odour condition displayed longer sucking bouts and more bursts composed of >7 sucking movements, and also consumed more milk than the Control infants. The time spent in the hospital was significantly less for the milk-odour condition (median = 43 days vs. 55.5 days for Controls).


Brief exposure to the odour of mother's milk prior to early breastfeeding trials had a positive effect on sucking behaviour and milk ingestion of preterm babies, which in turn resulted in a shortened stay in the hospital.

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