Objective: To appraise the psychometric properties of clinical feeding assessment tools used in a neonatal population.
Data sources: PubMed, OvidMedline, CINHAL, and PsycINFO databases from 1980 to 2007. Reference lists of all identified articles were also reviewed.
Study selection: Research reports written in English that utilized or validated clinical feeding assessment tools.
Data extraction: In total, 941 articles were reviewed. Seven neonatal clinical feeding assessment tools were identified and categorized into three groups: tools used for assessing either bottle-feeding or breastfeeding behaviors, tools used only for assessing bottle-feeding behaviors, and tools used only for assessing breastfeeding behaviors.
Results: The psychometric properties of none of the seven assessment tools identified were satisfactory, and the limited representativeness of the samples of the psychometric research was noted in all assessment tools identified. The Neonatal Oral-Motor Assessment Scale appeared to have been examined more thoroughly and showed more consistent results in psychometric properties than the others, despite its own limitations.
Conclusions: A psychometrically sound neonate feeding assessment tool has not yet been empirically validated. Clinicians who use these tools for clinical and research purposes should take into account this lack of evidence of psychometric soundness and interpret results of assessment with precautions. Well-designed research is needed to study the scientific integrity of these instruments for program evaluations in neonatal care.