Vanilla odor promotes oral feeding in premature infants – a randomized controlled trial

Publikation: Beitrag in FachzeitschriftForschungsartikelBeigetragenBegutachtung


Propose: Introducing early oral feeding in premature infants is important because it supports intestinal maturation and helps prevent infections. In addition, early oral feeding is likely to contribute to improved neurocognitive outcomes in preterm infants. Several holistic therapeutic strategies have been developed to improve feeding skills, food tolerance, and the ability to drink independently, including practices such as early breastfeeding, oral stimulation, and subsequent olfactory stimulation. Based on several studies using olfactory stimulation with food odors (vanilla, breast milk) to promote oral feeding in preterm infants this study was conducted to test the following hypothesis: Does olfactory stimulation with vanilla or milk odor (breast milk or formula) lead to a reduction in the time required for nasogastric tube weaning in premature infants older than 26 + 6 weeks of gestational age? In addition, does it influence secondary outcomes such as length of hospital stay, weight development, and attainment of greater amounts of independently consumed food? Methods: Premature with complete or partial feeding by gastric tube and without ventilation were included. For this study, 207 infants over 26 + 6 gestational weeks were randomized into three different study groups. Before each feeding, an olfactory presentation was made with milk odor, a vanilla Sniffin’ Stick, or a control stick. In the final analysis, 165 infants were included (87 males, 78 females). At the time of randomization, infants were on average 12 ± 9.5 days old. Results: While the influence of vanilla and milk odor did not provide a significant difference from the control for the primary outcome, a secondary analysis showed a significant group difference in the cumulative amount of independently drunk food consumed in the first ten days was the highest amount in the vanilla group. This time period was chosen due to the high dropout rate after the first ten days. In addition, there was a promising significance for earlier hospital discharge for prematurely below 32 weeks of gestation receiving vanilla odor stimulation in comparison to milk odor stimulation. Conclusion: Although the primary outcome of this study (gastric tube removal) did not provide significant results, a significant benefit of vanilla olfactory stimulation for preterm infants was demonstrated in subgroup analysis above milk odor stimulation. Younger preterm infants seem to benefit from the stimulation.


FachzeitschriftPhysiology & behavior
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2023

Externe IDs

ORCID /0000-0002-7336-5815/work/148145394
Scopus 85178157363
Mendeley 362b68cb-2ba3-31fb-ad85-ff93a78c36aa
ORCID /0009-0000-1194-0979/work/151982689



  • Gavage feeding, Premature infant, Nutrition, Vanilla, Olfaction, Breast milk