Factors associated with non-nutritive sucking habits at 2 years of age among very preterm children: EPIPAGE-2 cohort study.


Background: The association between prolonged non-nutritive sucking habits (NNSHs, ie, sucking pacifiers or fingers) and maxillofacial growth anomalies in the general population has been widely described. Because maturation of sucking abilities is not fully achieved in very preterm infants (<32 weeks’ gestation), neonatal services worldwide rely on the use of pacifiers to promote the development of adequate sucking reflexes, possibly prolonging NNSHs during infancy.

Objective: We aimed to describe the frequency and to identify factors associated with NNSHs at age 2 years in very preterm children.

Methods: The study was based on data from EPIPAGE-2, a French national prospective cohort study of preterm births during 2011 that included 2593 children born between 24 and 31 weeks’ gestation. The primary outcome was NNSHs at 2 years. Multivariable log-linear regression models with generalized estimation equations were used to study the association between the characteristics studied and NNSHs. Multiple imputations were used to take into account missing data.

Results: The frequency of NNSHs was 69% in the overall sample but higher among girls (adjusted risk ratio [RR] 1.12, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.05, 1.17), children born from multiple pregnancies (eg, twins/triplets) (RR 1.07, 95% CI 1.00, 1.11), children who were fed by nasogastric tube (RR 1.07, 95% CI 1.01, 1.13), or those who benefitted from developmental care programmes (RR 1.10, 95% CI 1.02, 1.19). The NNSHs frequency was lower if mothers were not born in France (RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.64, 0.77), children had 2 or more older siblings (RR 0.88, 95% CI 0.82, 0.96), or children were breast-fed at discharge (RR 0.90, 95% CI 0.85, 0.95).

Conclusions: NNSHs at 2 years seemed associated with cultural background, development care programmes, and breast feeding. Whether NNSHs at 2 years among very preterm children are associated with future maxillofacial growth anomalies deserves further attention.