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NICU Nurses and Lactation-Based Support and Care

Froh, Elizabeth PhD, RN; Dahlmeier, Katherine BSN; Spatz, Diane L. PhD, RN-BC, FAAN

Section Editor(s): Dowling, Donna

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000370
Original Research

Background: The provision of human milk and breastfeeding is essential in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) population. However, recent national research has demonstrated very low percentages of NICU nurses providing lactation-based support and care to patients and families, and less than half of all NICUs have an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) on staff.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to describe how NICU bedside nurses are providing lactation-based support and care during their shifts and the frequency of that support. The secondary aim was to gain an understanding of the NICU nurses' attitudes toward human milk and breastfeeding.

Methods: Through a prospective descriptive cohort design, the authors of this study created and disseminated a web-based survey (SurveyMonkey) of 21 questions including the Iowa Infant Feeding Attitude Scale (IIFAS) to a Northeastern urban hospital staff of bedside nurses.

Results: A total of 140 of the 389 eligible NICU bedside nurses responded to the survey. Between 50.7% and 72.9% of nurses reported to providing lactation-based support and care during the previous shift worked and during the previous week worked, respectively. The participants' responses to the IIFAS resulted in an overall score of 69.1, indicating an attitude of “positive to breastfeeding.”

Implications for Practice: The study demonstrates that the majority provide lactation-based support and care on every shift and hold very positive attitudes toward the provision of human milk and breastfeeding. Hospitals should be encouraged to promote educational and training programs in their respective institutions.

Implications for Research: Researchers should examine NICU nurses' attitudes and beliefs about human milk and breastfeeding on a national scale.

The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Drs Froh and Spatz); and The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia (Ms Dahlmeier and Dr Spatz).

Correspondence: Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, The University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, 418 Curie Blvd, Philadelphia, PA 19104 (spatz@nursing.upenn.edu).

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2017 by The National Association of Neonatal Nurses