Breastfeeding is associated with major benefits for high-risk infants born prematurely, yet this population faces significant challenges to breastfeeding. Lactation services provide successful interventions, yet the impact of lactation services on breastfeeding outcomes in preterm infants is understudied.Research aim:
The provision of full-time lactation support in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) will improve quantitative breastfeeding measures in premature infants.Methods:
A longitudinal retrospective nonexperimental design was used. Data were collected from medical records of breastfeeding outcomes in patients 30 weeks’ gestational age and under admitted to a level IV regional NICU over three epochs of varying levels of lactation services, from none to full time. Demographic, medical, and breastfeeding data were collected. Data analysis was performed using standard statistical tests and hierarchical regression analysis.Results:
A significant increase in the number of lactation consults was observed across epochs, and the number of infants who received human milk via feeding at the breast, as the first oral feeding, increased across epochs. After controlling for covariates, the odds of infants receiving any human milk compared with exclusive formula feeding increased across epochs.Conclusion:
The provision of full-time dedicated NICU lactation support is associated with an increase in breastfeeding outcome measures for high-risk preterm infants.