Oral Feeding Readiness in Preterm Infants: A Concept Analysis

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Oral feeding readiness in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) population of preterm infants is a complex and multifactorial concept that is encountered on a daily basis. The significance of having an understanding of the concept of oral feeding readiness within the context of prematurity is explored using the Wilsonian approach to concept analysis through the identification of characteristics and case examples of oral feeding readiness in preterm infants as directly observed in a level III NICU. Identification of these essential elements provides clarity for determining oral feeding readiness as well as leading to greater consistency in the provision of evidence-based feeding-related care for the preterm infant hospitalized in the NICU. Outcomes of this analysis demonstrated that oral feeding readiness is affected by a combination of neurodevelopmental maturity, behavioral state organization, and physiologic stability as well as being influenced by caregivers and the environment.

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