Parent’s experiences of feeding their preterm infant in Neonatal Units in Sweden. : Ethnographic design
Introduction: Studies have shown that having a preterm infant may cause stress and powerlessness for parents. It is important to support parents around the feeding situation, and that the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has appropriate space and place to help the family to bond to each other. For the healthcare professionals it is important to promote skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding; particularly for preterm infants. There are many studies on parent’s experiences of NICUs and a few studies on parent’s experiences of feeding their infant in the NICU.
Objective: The objective of this study was to explore parents experiences of feeding their infant in the NICU.
Design: The study was conducted using an ethnographic design.
Results: A global theme of ‘The journey in feeding’ was developed from four organising themes: ‘Ways of infant feeding’; ‘Environmental influences’; ‘Relationships’ and ‘Emotional factors’. These themes illustrate the challenges mothers reported with different methods of feeding. The environment had a big impact on parent’s experiences of infant feeding. Some mothers felt that breastfeeding seemed unnatural because their infant was so tiny but breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact helped them to bond to their infant. The mothers thought it was difficult to keep up with the milk production by only pumping. Routines were not inviting parents to find their own rhythm. They also felt stressed about the weighing. Healthcare professionals had positive and negative influences on the parents.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that while all parents expressed the wish to breastfeed, their ‘journey in feeding’ was highly influenced by method of feeding, environmental, relational and emotional factors. The general focus upon routines and assessing milk intake generated anxiety and reduced relationality. Midwives and neonatal nurses need to ensure that they emphasise and support the relational aspects of parenting and avoid over-emphasising milk intake and associated progress of the infant
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