Very-low-birth-weight infant short-term post-discharge outcomes: A retrospective study of specialized compared to standard care

Matern Child Health J. 2023 Mar;27(3):487-496. doi: 10.1007/s10995-022-03517-z. Epub 2023 Jan 2.


Objective: Ongoing health care challenges, low breast milk intake, and the need for rehospitalization are common during the first year of life after hospital discharge for very low birth weight (VLBW) infants. This retrospective cohort study examined breast milk intake, growth, emergency department (ED) visits, and non-surgical rehospitalizations for VLBW infants who received specialized post-discharge follow-up in western Canada, compared to VLBW infants who received standard follow-up in central Canada.

Design: Data were collected from two neonatal follow-up programs for VLBW babies (n = 150 specialized-care; n = 205 standard-care). Logistic regression was used to examine odds of breast milk intake and generalized estimating equations were used for odds of growth, ED visits and non-surgical rehospitalization by site.

Results: Specialized-care was associated with enhanced breast milk intake duration; the odds of receiving breastmilk at 4 months in the specialized-care cohort was 6 times that in the standard-care cohort. The specialized-care cohort had significantly more ED visits and rehospitalizations. However, for infants with oxygen use beyond 36 weeks compared to those with no oxygen use, the standard-care cohort had over 7 times the odds of rehospitalization where as the specialized-care cohort with no increased odds of rehospitalization.

Conclusion: Specialized neonatal nursing follow-up was associated with continued breastmilk intake beyond discharge. Infants in the specialized-care cohort used the ED and were hospitalized more often than the standard-care cohort with the exception of infants with long term oxygen needs.

Keywords: Breastfeeding.; Community health; NICU discharge; Neonatal follow-up; Post-discharge care.

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Very Low Birth Weight
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal
  • Milk, Human
  • Patient Discharge*
  • Retrospective Studies