1. Rinaldi, Kailey PhD, APRN, CPNP-PC, CNE
  2. Maguire, Denise PhD, RN, FAAN


Background: An infant's cognitive development is highly dependent on early interactions with its primary caregiver, often its mother. Feeding, a frequent and early exchange between mothers and infants, is an important time for maternal-infant bonding. Mothers with opioid use disorder have been found to be more physically and verbally stimulating and more active during feeds than mothers with no opioid use.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe the characteristics of verbal interactions mothers with opioid use disorder expressed while engaged in a feeding encounter with their infant undergoing treatment for neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome to offer insight into maternal experiences and potential challenges of feeding infants experiencing withdrawal.


Methods: A qualitative descriptive analysis of maternal verbalizations during the feeding was used in a secondary analysis using the Barnard Model as the theoretical framework for maternal-infant interaction.


Results: A theory-driven deductive approach was assumed to organize the identified subthemes within the concepts of the Barnard Model. Mothers frequently commented on hunger, satiation, and stress cues, while providing consolation, praise, and encouragement. Mothers expressed concerns regarding feeding volume and pace, and consequences related to feeding.


Implications for Practice and Research: It is crucial that clinicians remember that feeding is an important time for maternal-infant bonding. Further research into the feeding interactions of mother-infant dyads with opioid exposure is warranted. As infants may present with subacute signs of withdrawal, including persistent feeding difficulties for months, further investigation into feeding challenges dyads experience after discharge from the hospital is needed.