Klinični oddelek za neonatologijo, Pediatrična klinika, Univerzitetni klinični center Ljubljana, Ljubljana
Sucking and swallowing represent the most complex neuromuscular unit in the human body. Normal functioning of the oral-motor structures is a prerequisite for appropriate food intake and indicates good neurological and behavioural organization of the newborn. The sucking and swallowing patterns of premature and sick newborn are different from those of healthy newborns. Premature infants also have difficulties in coordinating sucking and swallowing with breathing due to immaturity. Beside immaturity, congenital and acquired damage to the central nervous system, anatomical anomalies of the gastrointestinal tract, genetic malformations and infections are often the cause of feeding difficulties. The article describes normal, disorganized and dysfunctional patterns of sucking and swallowing in newborns.
Key words: newborn, premature infant, sucking pattern.