Neonatal Intensive Care Unit-Specific Lactation Support and Mother's Own Breast Milk Availability for Very Low Birth-Weight Infants

Adv Neonatal Care. 2019 Dec;19(6):474-481. doi: 10.1097/ANC.0000000000000684.


Background: Mother's own milk (MOM) is the preferred nutrition for premature infants, particularly for the very low birth-weight (VLBW) cohort. Benefits are well documented; yet, numerous barriers exist for provision of MOM in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Lactation consultants (LCs) can optimize breastfeeding support for NICU mothers; however, understanding of the impact of NICU-dedicated LCs is limited.

Purpose: Evaluate the effectiveness of NICU-dedicated LCs in improving breastfeeding outcomes and MOM provision in VLBW infants.

Methods: A retrospective chart review of 167 VLBW infants comparing breastfeeding outcomes between 2 NICUs, one with NICU-dedicated LCs (hospital A; n = 48) and one without (hospital B; n = 119). Primary outcome measures included feeding percentages of MOM received by infants at 3 intervals, throughout hospitalization, and number of direct breastfeeding events. Secondary outcome measures included number of days to first enteral feed, days to reach full feeds, days of nil per os, days on total parenteral nutrition, and length of stay.

Findings: Neonatal intensive care unit-specific lactation support increased the number of direct breastfeeding events on day of discharge (P = .048). No statistical significance was found at each of the 3 time intervals, or throughout hospitalization (week 1: P = .18; midpoint: P = .40; discharge: P = .16; total hospitalization: P = .19). No statistical significance was demonstrated in secondary outcome measures (days to first enteral feed: P = .22; days to full feeds: P = .25; nil per os days: P = .27; total parenteral nutrition days: P = .34; length of stay: P = .01). Length of stay not found to be significant after correcting for confounding variables.

Implication for practice: Increased direct breastfeeding events on day of discharge with exposure to NICU-dedicated LCs in the VLBW population.

Implication for research: Prospective studies regarding NICU-specific lactation support with larger samples are warranted.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding* / methods
  • Breast Feeding* / psychology
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature, Diseases
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / statistics & numerical data
  • Lactation / psychology
  • Male
  • Maternal Behavior* / physiology
  • Maternal Behavior* / psychology
  • Milk, Human*
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Patient Discharge / statistics & numerical data