Tube Feeding Practices and Transition to Breastfeeding Experiences of Mothers of Preterm Infants at a Kangaroo Mother Care Unit of a Tertiary Hospital in South Africa

Sphiwe Madiba*, Malmsey Sengane

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

To receive human milk, most preterm infants initially receive the mothers’ expressed milk through a nasogastric tube. However, breast milk feeding the preterm infant and making the transition to direct breast-feeding come with significant challenges. The study explored and described the experiences of mothers of preterm infants regarding initiation and expressing breast milk, tube feeding practices, and transition to breastfeeding during the infants’ stay in a kangaroo care unit (KMC) of an academic hospital in South Africa. Using a qualitative design, focus group interviews were conducted with 38 mothers of preterm infants after discharge from the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). We analyzed transcripts following the 5 steps for qualitative thematic data analysis. Tube feeding and breastfeeding preterm infants was challenging and exhausting for the mothers. Many described their experiences of initiating expression and sustaining milk supply as negative. They had constant concerns about their ability to produce adequate milk volumes to feed their infants. They had immense dislike of expressing, which they described as physically exhausting, stressful, and painful. Those who had initiated breastfeeding were highly motivated to breastfeed their preterm infants. They described breastfeeding as a positive bonding experience that they derived pleasure from. The mothers’ dislike of expressing was overshadowed by their emotional obligation toward their preterm infants. Although the KMC unit promotes breastfeeding, mothers encountered problems and struggled to initiate expression and sustain milk production. Mothers of extreme and very preterm infants need support to continue with milk expression during the long NICU and KMC stay.

Original languageEnglish
JournalGlobal Pediatric Health
Volume8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • South Africa tube feeding
  • breastfeeding
  • experiences
  • expression
  • kangaroo care
  • mothers’ breast milk
  • neonatal intensive care unit
  • preterm infants

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