Human Milk Provision Experiences, Goals, and Outcomes for Teen Mothers with Low-Birth-Weight Infants in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

Breastfeed Med. 2017 Jul/Aug;12(6):351-358. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2017.0035. Epub 2017 May 30.


Introduction: Breastfeeding rates are virtually unknown for teen mothers whose low-birth-weight (LBW; <2500 gm) infants are hospitalized in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). The objective was to examine the infant feeding experiences, goals, and outcomes of teen mothers of LBW infants.

Methods: We conducted a multimethod study using a qualitative research design, survey, and infant medical records. The primary data source was individual interviews conducted with teen mothers of LBW infants hospitalized in a tertiary NICU. Content analysis and descriptive statistics were used for data analysis.

Results: All 15 teen mothers (12 black, 3 Hispanic) wanted what was best for their infants and initiated lactation by breast pump. However, maintaining lactation was challenging and the following barriers were identified: fear of being judged; body image issues; influence of the maternal grandmother; and disorganized thought processes about combining pumping with returning to school or work. Despite these barriers, 50% of the teen mothers met their goals for human milk provision at NICU discharge.

Conclusion: Most of the teen mothers' lactation barriers reflected their adolescent developmental stage. Potential interventions are identified and include focus groups with teen mothers and maternal grandmothers and lactation support by NICU-based teen breastfeeding peer counselors.

Keywords: NICU; breastfeeding; outcomes; premature infant; qualitative; teen mothers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Breast Feeding / psychology
  • Breast Feeding / statistics & numerical data*
  • Breast Milk Expression / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Goals
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Low Birth Weight*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal*
  • Lactation / psychology*
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mothers* / psychology
  • Patient Outcome Assessment
  • Peer Group
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States