Promoting early expression of breast milk in mothers of preterm infants in a neonatal unit: a best practice implementation project

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Abstract

Objectives:

The aim of this implementation project was to optimize lactation success in mothers of preterm infants by ensuring early (as soon as possible and within six hours) and frequent (eight to 12 times/day) milk expression.

Introduction:

Evidence suggests that breast milk improves enteral feeding tolerance and neurodevelopmental outcomes and decreases the risk of necrotising enterocolitis and late onset sepsis in preterm infants. It is widely accepted that breast milk expression should commence as soon as possible and within six hours of delivery.

Results:

Following implementation of the breast milk expression information pack and staff education program, compliance to clinical guideline recommendations improved considerably. An increase from 5/20 (25%) to 17/20 (85%) of women expressing milk within six hours of delivery was observed. The average expression times also increased: from 2.6 (2.0) to 6.1 (2.7) times in the first 24 hours and from 4.6 (1.7) to 7.8 (1.7) times between 24–48 hours. The compliance rate for milk expression within six hours of delivery and expression of eight to 12 times daily in the first 48 hours increased from 1/20 (5%) at baseline to 10/20 (50%) in the follow-up audit.

Conclusion:

The implementation of the breast milk information pack and staff education led to improvements in the milk expression practices of mothers who had preterm infants. As a result of this project, the information packs are now routinely given to all women at risk of delivering preterm or who have babies in the neonatal unit. Further audits will be undertaken in the future to determine sustainability of practice changes.

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