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The perfect pacifier

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Graduate student Jaclene Forlano sought to find the perfect pacifier. Not just one with a stuffed animal hanging from it to entertain infants, but one that can help pre-term infants develop the sucking skills they need.

Babies begin to develop non-nutritive sucking, or NNS, between the 29th and 32nd week of pregnancy. Infants born prematurely, before NNS can develop, can experience feeding issues. The pacifier serves as a tool for those babies to use to play catch up.

“We really need to support pre-term infants in developing NNS,” Forlano said. “Some of these children have difficulty feeding.”

Under the direction of assistant professor Emily Zimmerman in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Forlano, a speech pathology student graduating in May, tested six different pacifiers on 16 infants, specifically looking at the pull stiffness and the base of the pacifier that covers the mouth.

But none of the pacifiers have a combination of the two characteristics that could best help pre-term infants effectively improve NNS, she explained.

“We want to take our findings and combine them in an optimal pacifier that just doesn’t seem to be out there,” Forlano said. “A lot of the brands say they are the best but don’t have research to back that up.”