Background/Aim: Maternity units within Northland DHB are Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative accredited and report high exclusive breastfeeding rates (>90%). However, delayed physiological development of preterm babies, which can impact gastrointestinal maturity and feeding skills, can make breastfeeding problematic. This study aimed to investigate breastfeeding practices of preterm babies admitted to the Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) at Whangarei Hospital.
Methods: Retrospective data on breastfeeding practices was collected from medical notes of preterm babies (n=100) admitted to SCBU for a minimum of 3 days between January 2013 and March 2014.
Results: The median age of mothers was 27 years (range 17-43) and 56% identified as NZ Māori. The median (25th,75th percentile) age of the babies was 35 weeks gestation (33,36) and 57 were male. Fourteen babies were born extremely premature (≤32 weeks’ gestation) and 86 were of moderate to late prematurity (>32 to <37 weeks’ gestation). Median length of SCBU admission was 14 days. Breastfeeding was initiated by 83% of the mothers. Seventy-six babies received enteral feeding, with 45 commencing on expressed breastmilk. On discharge, 73% were receiving some breastmilk with 67% exclusively breastfeeding.
Conclusions: Preterm babies admitted to SCBU had high rates of breastfeeding initiation and the majority were receiving breastmilk at discharge. Nevertheless, there is still a gap between these rates and overall exclusive breastfeeding rate reported by Northland DHB. Future studies need to determine how mothers of preterm babies can be further supported to establish exclusive breastfeeding.
Funding Source: School of Food and Nutrition, Massey University