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The challenges of medically complex breastfed children and their families: A systematic review
Maternal & Child Nutrition, Volume: 17, Issue: 4
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Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then alongside solid food for the first 2 years and beyond is the gold standard in young child nutrition. There is an abundance of literature relating to the preventative nature of breastmilk and breastfeeding against many infectious diseases and ch...
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Exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then alongside solid food for the first 2 years and beyond is the gold standard in young child nutrition. There is an abundance of literature relating to the preventative nature of breastmilk and breastfeeding against many infectious diseases and chronic conditions. However, despite medically complex infants and children being a group that could benefit most from continued breastfeeding, breastfeeding duration and exclusivity are lower among more complex paediatric populations. The reasons for this are not well known, and there is a paucity of data relating to supporting infants who have acute or chronic illness, disability or congenital anomaly to breastfeed. This systematic review aimed to understand the challenges of breast/chestfeeding the medically complex child and to establish the gaps in healthcare provision that act as barriers to optimal infant and young child feeding. The search was limited to studies published in English, focused on breastfed sick infants in hospital, with no date limits as there is no previous systematic review. Of 786 papers retrieved, 11 studies were included for review, and seven themes identified. Themes included practical and psychological challenges of continuing to breastfeed in a hospital setting, complications of the condition making breastfeeding difficult, lack of specialist breastfeeding support from hospital staff and a lack of availability of specialist equipment to support complex breastfeeding. The findings affirm the lack of consistent high-quality care for lactation support in paediatric settings and reinforce the need for further focused research in this area.
breastfeeding, healthcare staff, lactation support, medically complex infan,t paediatric care, PICU
College of Human and Health Sciences