Assessment of preterm infants' readiness to commence breastfeeding

Crowe, Linda Marie (2011) Assessment of preterm infants' readiness to commence breastfeeding. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.


Preterm infants commence breastfeeding when health-care professionals deem them to be ready. However, the optimal timing for commencement of breastfeeding is unclear. Currently, there is little guidance for neonatal care providers to decide when to initiate breastfeeding among preterm infants. A mixed-methods study was conducted to develop and test the Preterm Sucking Readiness (PTSR) scale in four phases. The first phase involved a chart audit to explore the use of age as a criterion by investigating when preterm infants meet feeding milestones as well as other factors that may affect an infant’s readiness to engage in nutritive sucking behaviour. The second phase utilised focus groups to explore and define how neonatal care providers decide when to commence breastfeeding. To gain consensus on the criteria mentioned by the focus groups, a Delphi survey was conducted in phase 3, involving neonatal providers across Australia and New Zealand. Phase 4 of the study involved an observational study that was used to test the six-item PTSR. The age at which specific feeding milestones were reached was consistent with what has been previously described in the literature. The chart audit showed that the time taken to the first feeding attempt in the preterm infant population was affected by gestational age at birth, birth weight, and specific interventions. Staff also considered age along with other criteria when deciding when to initiate feeding. Consensus on nine criteria for inclusion into the six-item PTSR was achieved using the Delphi technique. Three items of PTSR showed significant differences between the preterm and fullterm infant groups. Only two items, feeding-readiness behaviour and low pulse oximetry during handling, explained the variance in breastfeeding behaviour. The inter-rater variability ranged between moderate and very good for the PTSR items. The results of this study indicate the importance of assessing behavioural cues as an indication of breastfeeding readiness in the preterm infant population, once an infant is deemed physiologically stable. Age continues to be a factor in some clinicians' decisions to commence breastfeeding. However, age alone cannot be used to decide if an infant is ready to engage in breastfeeding. Further research is needed to confirm these findings.

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ID Code: 47167
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Chang, Anne & Fraser, Jenny
Keywords: preterm infant, feeding readiness, breastfeeding, mixed methods, instrument development
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Nursing
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 23 Nov 2011 02:21
Last Modified: 23 Nov 2011 02:21

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