Diane Spatz of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says the project was driven by bedside nurses to educate mothers about the benefits of breastfeeding babies -- even babies in critical condition with urgent medical problems.
The nurses helped mothers attain high rates of breastfeeding in very sick newborns with complex birth defects requiring surgery and intensive care. They taught the mothers how to help their babies -- often too fragile to be held -- not only to receive breast milk but skin-to-skin contact, which reduces stress for both child and mother and helps increase milk production.
"Human milk is important for all newborns, but especially for sick infants," nurse researcher Diane Spatz says in a statement. "Breast milk protects an infant in the neo-natal intensive care unit from necrotizing enterocolitis -- a devastating disease of the bowel -- and from a host of infectious diseases. It is of critical importance that all mothers make the informed decision to provide human milk for their infants and that nurses provide evidence-based lactation care and support in order for mothers to achieve success."
The study, published in the Journal of Perinatal & Neonatal Nursing, describes a series of steps called the Transition to Breast Pathway, in which neo-natal nurses systematically guide the mother in breastfeeding practices.