Mothers of Infants With Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia Describe “Breastfeeding” in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit: “As Long as It’s My Milk, I’m Happy”

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Background:Very little is known about the breastfeeding experience of mothers of infants born with congenital anomalies and cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Often, studies related to breastfeeding and lactation in the NICU setting are focused on the mothers of late preterm, preterm, low-birth-weight, and very-low-birth-weight infants. Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is an anatomic malformation of the diaphragm and affects 1 in every 2,000 to 4,000 live births. Currently, there are no studies examining the health outcomes of infants with CDH and the effect of human milk.Research aim:This study aimed to describe the breastfeeding experience of mothers of infants with CDH cared for in the NICU.Methods:A prospective, longitudinal qualitative descriptive design was used. Phased interviews were conducted with a purposive sample of 11 CDH infant–mother dyads from a level 3 NICU in a children’s hospital.Results:Six themes emerged from the data: (a) hopeful for breastfeeding, (b) latching on . . . to the pump, (c) we’ve already worked so hard, (d) getting the hang of it—it’s getting easier, (e) a good safety net, and (f) finding a way that works for us.Conclusion:For this population of CDH infant–mother dyads, the term breastfeeding is not exclusive to direct feeding at the breast and the mothers emphasized the significance of providing their own mother’s milk through a combination of feeding mechanisms to their infants with CDH.

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