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Breastfeeding sick children in hospital: Exploring the experiences of mothers in UK paediatric wards

LYNDSEY HOOKWAY, Amy Brown Orcid Logo, Aimee Grant Orcid Logo

Maternal and Child Nutrition, Volume: 19, Issue: 2

Swansea University Authors: LYNDSEY HOOKWAY, Amy Brown Orcid Logo, Aimee Grant Orcid Logo

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DOI (Published version): 10.1111/mcn.13489

Abstract

There is a paucity of literature exploring the challenges of breastfeeding sick children in hospital. Previous research has focused on single conditions and hospitals which limits understanding of the challenges in this population. Although evidence suggests that current lactation training in paedia...

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Published in: Maternal and Child Nutrition
ISSN: 1740-8695 1740-8709
Published: Wiley 2023
Online Access: Check full text

URI: https://cronfa.swan.ac.uk/Record/cronfa62725
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Abstract: There is a paucity of literature exploring the challenges of breastfeeding sick children in hospital. Previous research has focused on single conditions and hospitals which limits understanding of the challenges in this population. Although evidence suggests that current lactation training in paediatrics is often inadequate, it is unclear where the specific training gaps are. This qualitative interview study of UK mothers aimed to explore the challenges of breastfeeding sick infants and children on a paediatric ward or paediatric intensive care unit. From 504 eligible respondents, a sample of 30 mothers of children aged 2–36 months with various conditions and demographic backgrounds was purposively chosen, and a reflexive thematic analysis undertaken. The study identified previously unreported impacts such as complex fluid needs, iatrogenic withdrawal, neurological irritability and changes to breastfeeding behaviour. Mothers described breastfeeding as emotionally and immunologically meaningful. There were many complex psychological challenges such as guilt, disempowerment, and trauma. Wider struggles such as staff resistance to bedsharing, inaccurate breastfeeding information, lack of food and inadequate breast pump provision made breastfeeding more challenging. There are numerous challenges related to breastfeeding and responsively parenting sick children in paediatrics, and these also impacted maternal mental health. Staff skill and knowledge gaps were widespread, and the clinical environment was not always conducive to supporting breastfeeding. This study highlights strengths in clinical care and provides insight into what measures are perceived as supportive by mothers. It also highlights areas for improvement, which may inform more nuanced paediatric breastfeeding standards and training.
Keywords: Baby Friendly Initiative; breastfeeding; medical complexity; paediatrics; PICU; qualitative methods
College: Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences
Funders: Swansea University.
Issue: 2