Examining the association between prenatal maternal stress and infant non-nutritive suck

on behalf of Program Collaborators for Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes, Andrea Aguiar, Sarah Dee Geiger, Susan L. Schantz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: This study examined the relationship between prenatal maternal stress (PREMS) and non-nutritive suck (NNS) and tested its robustness across 2 demographically diverse populations. Methods: The study involved 2 prospective birth cohorts participating in the national Environmental influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program: Illinois Kids Development Study (IKIDS) and ECHO Puerto Rico (ECHO-PROTECT). PREMS was measured during late pregnancy via the 10-item Perceived Stress Scale (PSS-10). NNS was sampled from 1- to 8-week-olds using a custom pacifier for ~5 min. Results: Overall, 237 mother–infant dyads completed this study. Despite several significant differences, including race/ethnicity, income, education, and PREMS levels, significant PREMS-NNS associations were found in the 2 cohorts. In adjusted linear regression models, higher PREMS, measured through PSS-10 total scores, related to fewer but longer NNS bursts per minute. Conclusions: A significant association was observed between PREMS and NNS across two diverse cohorts. This finding is important as it may enable the earlier detection of exposure-related deficits and, as a result, earlier intervention, which potentially can optimize outcomes. More research is needed to understand how NNS affects children’s neurofunction and development. Impact: In this double-cohort study, we found that higher maternal perceived stress assessed in late pregnancy was significantly associated with fewer but longer sucking bursts in 1- to 8-week-old infants.This is the first study investigating the association between prenatal maternal stress (PREMS) and infant non-nutritive suck (NNS), an early indicator of central nervous system integrity.Non-nutritive suck is a potential marker of increased prenatal stress in diverse populations.Non-nutritive suck can potentially serve as an early indicator of exposure-related neuropsychological deficits allowing for earlier interventions and thus better prognoses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1285-1293
Number of pages9
JournalPediatric Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Apr 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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