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LLLI Center for Breastfeeding Information

Journal Abstract of the Month for June 2005

"Sharing the science on human milk feedings with mothers of very-low-birth-weight infants."

Authors: Nancy A. Rodriguez, Donna J. Miracle, and Paula P. Meier

J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2005 Jan-Feb; 34(1):109-19.

Abstract: Infants born weighing less than 1500 grams face tremendous health risks, many of which can be mitigated if they are fed their mothers’ milk. Unfortunately, very-low-birth-weight (VLBW) infants are also frequently born to women who are statistically less likely to breastfeed their babies. Many healthcare providers are reluctant to approach these mothers with the necessary medical information that would allow them to make the most informed choices about feeding options because they fear pressuring the women or making them feel uncomfortable or guilty. This article addresses specific words and phrases that the nursing staff can use to clearly explain the benefits of human milk for VLBW babies in a nonjudgmental way.

This article contains many specific examples of ways in which breastmilk supports the health and growth of the VLBW baby. These examples can be shared with the mother in language that is clear and connects the sometimes mysterious mechanisms of lactation and the development of the VLBW baby with common situations that the mother may find more familiar than complicated technical terms. It addresses common questions that nurses, especially those with limited knowledge of or experience with breastfeeding, may have.

These discussions need to occur as soon after delivery as possible, as that is when it is easiest to develop an adequate milk supply. Providing the mothers of VLBW infants with this information, the support they need to build a milk supply, and the reassurance that while they are doing the very best for their babies, they can stop whenever they like and that they will be supported during this process as well, are paramount to successfully encouraging mothers to become actively involved in providing their milk for their babies. Studies cited by the authors indicate that nearly all mothers of VLBW babies want to know how they can best help their babies and would elect to provide their own milk if they were presented with the information in a personal way rather than solely through the use of written materials.

This paper is categorized by the following KEYWORDS:

Human Milk Feeding
Formula Concerns
Human Milk - Immune Factors, Composition, Preterm
Nutrition - Infant
Breast Pumps / Devices

The abstract for this article may be viewed at this link

LLLI provides additional information on breastfeeding premature infants. This information may be accessed on our Web site via any of the following links:

Paula P. Meier, DNSc, RN, FAAN and co-author of this article is a member of the LLLI Health Advisory Council.

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