Objective: This scoping review describes the nature and evidence base of internationally available guidelines for the introduction of oral feeding for preterm infants in neonatal units.
Study design: Thirty-nine current infant oral feeding introduction guidelines were obtained, and their recommendations contrasted with available scientific literature.
Result: Documents were primarily from the USA, UK, Canada, and Australia, from hospitals, regional health authorities, and journal articles. Specifics of nonnutritive sucking, gestational age at first feed, exclusions to oral feeding, suggested interventions, and the definition of full oral feeding varied between documents. There was variable use of scientific evidence to back up recommendations.
Conclusion: Guidelines for oral feeding, whether written by clinicians or researchers, vary greatly in their recommendations and details of interventions. Areas more widely researched were more commonly discussed. Recommendations varied more when evidence was not available or weak. Guideline developers need to synthesize evidence and local variability to create appropriate guidelines.