Barriers to Moms providing Breast Milk in the NICU

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Breast milk has well-documented benefits for the growth and development of infants compared to formula. Many of these benefits are especially important in the care of premature infants who face an especially high number of physiological and developmental challenges. However, despite the clear benefits of breast milk, the number of mothers who provide breast milk for their premature infant is low and decreases over the infant's length of stay.  


To determine the barriers mothers face in providing breastmilk for their preterm infants.  


This study was part of a larger IRB approved quality improvement project.  Infants who were less than 33 weeks gestation or less than 1500g at birth were eligible to take part.  A survey to identify the barriers to providing breast milk was developed.  Questions related to emotional, physical, and logistical challenges to providing milk as well as various potential institutional barriers, including a lack of support for continued breastfeeding in the workplace and the quality of support provided by various hospital staff were included. The survey was given to moms between 14 days and 21 days of life of the infant.  



Twenty-four surveys have been given so far.  The most prominent barriers include those related to the stress of providing breast milk, feeling discouraged from providing milk due to low milk volume, and a lack of consistent support from hospital staff. Fourteen (58%) said that a lack of sleep or being too tired to pump was a significant barrier to pumping; 10 (42%) indicated that feeling discouraged from low milk volume was a barrier; and 9 (38%) identified frequency of pumping or a lack of time to pump as a barrier to pumping. Although 19 (79%) met with a lactation consultant, only 3 (13%) of them recall being told what volume of milk to expect.  



These results suggest that restructuring patient education about breastfeeding to reduce the stress moms feel and improve their sleep patterns as well as giving them more realistic expectations about milk supply could result in an increased rate of mothers both initiating and sustaining their milk supply.  

Albany Medical Center, Albany NY
Albany Medical College

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