Breastfeeding in mothers of preterm infants : Prevalence and effects of support

Abstract: The overall aim of this thesis was to describe the prevalence of breastfeeding in preterm infants and to evaluate the effectiveness and mother’s experiences of proactive person-centred telephone support after discharge. Furthermore, to describe the duration of breastfeeding and risks of ceasing breastfeeding up to 12 months. The first study, a register study with data from the Swedish Neonatal Quality register (SNQ), included breastfeeding data at discharge from 29 445 preterm infants born from 2004-2013. The results demonstrated that the prevalence of exclusive breastfeeding among preterm infants in Sweden decreased during the study period, especially among extremely preterm infants (<28 weeks). We also performed a multicentre randomised controlled trial (RCT) of 493 breastfeeding mothers of preterm infants discharged from six neonatal units in Sweden. The intervention consisted of a proactive breastfeeding telephone support system in which a breastfeeding support team called the mothers once everyday up to 14 days after discharge. The control group received reactive support; the mothers were invited to call the breastfeeding support team if they wanted to talk or ask any questions (i.e., usual care).The RCT demonstrated that the intervention did not affect exclusive breastfeeding at eight weeks after discharge (primary outcome) or up to 12 months. The proactive support did not affect maternal breastfeeding satisfaction, attachment, quality of life or method of feeding (secondary outcomes). However, parental stress was significantly reduced in mothers in the intervention group. Mothers in the intervention group were significantly more satisfied and involved in the support and felt empowered compared with mothers in the control group, who experienced reactive support as dual. Further findings showed that a lower maternal educational level, partial breastfeeding at discharge and longer stay in the neonatal unit increased the risk of ceasing breastfeeding during the first 12 months of postnatal age. In conclusion, the trend for exclusive breastfeeding at discharge in preterm infants is declining, which necessitates concern. The evaluated intervention of telephone support did not affect breastfeeding, in the short-or long-term. However, maternal stress was reduced and mothers were significantly more satisfied with the proactive support and felt empowered by the support.