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Mothers' Experiences Expressing Breast Milk for Their Preterm Infants: Does NICU Design Make a Difference?

Dowling, Donna A. PhD, RN; Blatz, Mary Ann MSN, RN, IBCLC; Graham, Gregory MA

Section Editor(s): Dowling, Donna

doi: 10.1097/ANC.0b013e318265b299
Original Research

PURPOSE: This study examined differences in outcomes of provision of mothers' milk before and after implementation of a single-family room (SFR) neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and described issues related to long-term milk expression.

SAMPLE: The sample included 40 mothers (15 in the original NICU and 25 in the SFR NICU).

DESIGN: Descriptive comparative.

METHODS: Mothers were recruited 2 months before and 3 months after opening an SFR NICU. Nutritional data were collected throughout hospitalization. Mothers used a milk expression diary during hospitalization and completed a survey, “My Experiences With Milk Expression” immediately before infant discharge.

RESULTS: Seventy-five percent of mothers planned to express breast milk or breastfeed before delivery. The majority of the mothers (55%) were most comfortable pumping in their own homes because of the increased privacy. There were no statistically significant differences between the 2 groups regarding the place where they were most comfortable pumping or where they usually pumped, although more mothers pumped in their babies' rooms in the SFR NICU. The majority of the mothers reported concern about their milk supply at some time during hospitalization and 47.5% reported having breast problems. At discharge, 71.8% of the total group was providing some breast milk and 44.7% of the total group was providing breast milk exclusively. There were no significant differences between the groups in outcomes concerning the provision of breast milk.

CONCLUSIONS: Individual mother's needs for privacy need to be determined and interventions to support mothers' feeding plans throughout hospitalization and at discharge need to be developed.

Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University (Dr Dowling and Mr Graham), Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, Ohio (Ms Blatz).

Correspondence: Donna A. Dowling, PhD, RN, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Case Western Reserve University, 10900 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44106 (

This study was funded by a Research Initiative Grant, Case Western Reserve University. The authors thank Deborah Schwerko, RN, IBCLC, and Rosella Dempsey, RN, IBCLC, for their contributions to the study.

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

© 2012 National Association of Neonatal Nurses