Pediatric researchers at Children's Hosptial have described a successful program in which nurses helped mothers attain high rates of breast-feeding in very sick babies — newborns with complex birth defects requiring surgery and intensive care. Milk from a baby's mother helps fend off infection and provides nutrition that can reduce the infant's stay in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), but because the babies are often in critical condition, breast-feeding may not be considered a priority.
Nurse investigators Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, and Taryn M. Edwards, BSN, RN-BC, led a continuous quality improvement (CQI) project that employed a series of steps called the Transition to Breast Pathway in which NICU nurses systematically guide the mother in breast-feeding practices. The approach culminated in a majority of the infants in the study (58 out of 80) feeding at their mother's breasts before being discharged from the hospital.
"This CQI project demonstrates that even the most vulnerable infants can transition to at-breast feeds prior to discharge," says Dr. Spatz. "This pathway can be replicated in intensive-care nurseries throughout the world, allowing infants to achieve improved health outcomes, and their mothers to have the opportunity to follow the natural path of bonding that breast-feeding allows for."
Funding for this study, published in the Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, was provided from the Maternal-Child Health Leadership Academy, sponsored by Sigma Theta Tau International and Johnson & Johnson.