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breast-feeding, duration, initiation, intention, neonatal intensive care unit



  1. Lessen, Rachelle MS, RD, IBCLC, LDN
  2. Crivelli-Kovach, Andrea MA, PhD, CHES


Women who desire to breast-feed their sick newborns often encounter obstacles, including insufficient support and education as well as unsupportive hospital practices. The purpose of this study was to describe maternal, neonatal, and outside influences associated with the intention, initiation, and duration of breast-feeding for women whose newborns were admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit. One hundred mothers were interviewed. Most mothers (67%) intended to breast-feed exclusively and this was significantly related to maternal characteristics such as age, education, parity, smoking and marital status, pre-breast-feeding experience, and the influences of the neonate's father and prenatal education. Seventy-eight mothers initiated pumping. Initiation was significantly related to maternal education, smoking, parity, previous breast-feeding experience, the neonate's physician, the neonate's father, and postpartum breast-feeding education. Fifty-four mothers were followed up by telephone after discharge until weaning. Thirty percent were exclusively breast-feeding at 2 weeks after discharge, and 15% were breast-feeding at 1 year. Duration of breast-feeding was significantly associated with education, marital status, ethnicity, income, assistance from nurses and lactation consultants, and feeding method along with milk type and milk volume at discharge. Increased family support, timely breast-feeding information, and a supportive neonatal intensive care unit environment are needed for women to succeed in breast-feeding their hospitalized newborns.