Preterm infants have shorter breastfeeding duration than that of term infants. Details of postdischarge feeding methods and difficulties are needed to inform the care of preterm breastfeeding dyads.
To describe postdischarge breastfeeding characteristics of mother–preterm infant dyads up to 12 weeks corrected gestational age (CGA).
A prospective observational study of preterm dyads (birth 24-33 weeks' gestation) that fed their mother's own milk (MOM) at discharge from a neonatal unit in Perth, Western Australia. Feeding method and frequency, breastfeeding duration, difficulties, and nipple shield use were recorded at 2, 6, and 12 weeks CGA.
Data were obtained for 49 mothers (singleton infant n = 39, twins n = 10). At 12 weeks CGA, 59% fed any MOM with 47% exclusively fed MOM and 31% fully breastfed. Nipple shield use reduced from 42% at 2 weeks CGA to 11% at 12 weeks CGA. Compared with mothers who exclusively fed MOM at discharge (n = 41) those who fed both MOM and infant formula (n = 8) were more likely to wean before 12 weeks CGA (P < .001). Weaning occurred before 2 weeks CGA in 12/19 (63%), with low milk supply the most frequently cited reason.
Implications for Practice:
Most mothers with a full milk supply at discharge successfully transition to predominant breastfeeding. Frequent milk removal needs to be prioritized throughout the preterm infant's hospital stay.
Implications for Research:
Examination of facilitators and barriers to early and continued frequent milk removal across the postpartum period is required to identify strategies to optimize lactation after preterm birth.