Nourishing extreme preterm infants

These infants require a great deal of intensive care for an extended period of time if they are to survive. The combination of premature birth and an elevated risk of complications delays the start of full breastfeeding for several weeks. 

 Photo credit: Herjua, iStock

Meanwhile the infant often receives donated breast milk through a gastric tube while the mother is encouraged to pump in order to trigger her own production. Despite all the stress, both she and those around her often expect her to succeed in that effort.

A key responsibility of neonatal nurses is to support, guide and train parents. The policy of the ward and the attitudes of nurses are integral to the ability of parents to understand the information they are given and to make wise decisions about breastfeeding, etc. Each country presents parents with particular opportunities and challenges in terms of being with their children.

Breastfeeding protects against stress, lowering a woman's cortisol levels and making her more resistant to acute factors, particularly those that are physiological in nature.

The overall aim of this study is characterise and compare the experience of Swedish and American parents and nurses when it comes to breastfeeding, pumping and feeding for extremely preterm infants.

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