Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore mothers' perceptions of their experiences in feeding their preterm infants in the early weeks after hospital discharge.
Subjects: Twenty-seven mothers whose preterm infants were part of a larger study of feeding readiness participated.
Design: A qualitative, descriptive approach was used to explore mothers' experiences in feeding their preterm infants after hospital discharge.
Methods: A convenience sample of mothers of preterm infants were interviewed 2 to 3 weeks after hospital discharge. Data were generated by semi-structured interview and analyzed by searching for thematic patterns in the data. Mothers were asked to describe their experiences feeding their infants, their perceptions of how their infants' feeding ability had changed since discharge, and the meanings they gave to these changes. The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed. Agreement of themes between the investigators was achieved.
Main outcome measures: Three themes emerged from the interviews: interpreting infant behaviors, managing the feeding process, and realizing knowledge gaps.
Principal results: Mothers struggle with infant feeding in the first few weeks after discharge and experience a period of transition before comfort develops.
Conclusions: Nursing interventions should include anticipatory guidance to mothers about feeding their infants after discharge and more concrete information regarding infant cues of hunger and satiation. Follow-up visits after discharge should include a review of the current feeding regimen, information regarding feeding progression, and reinforcement about changing infant behaviors as the preterm infant approaches 40 weeks postmenstrual age.