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Privacy an Issue for Nursing Moms in Neonatal ICUs

Interruptions make them less willing to express breast milk, study finds

MONDAY, Jan. 21 (HealthDay News) -- Finding private, quiet places to pump breast milk can be difficult for mothers with babies in neonatal intensive care units, a new study says.

This can cause mothers to miss feedings or be too shy to pump breast milk, which can pose a health risk for low-weight premature babies. Breast milk includes antibodies that help protect infants against infections and gastrointestinal problems, the Case Western Reserve University nursing school researchers explained.

Their study included 15 new mothers in multiple-bed neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) rooms and 25 in single-family NICU rooms. The researchers expected that mothers in the single-family rooms would be less likely to have problems, but that wasn't the case.

Most of the mothers in both types of rooms said they had privacy and comfort concerns and would rather pump breast milk at home, according to the study recently published in the journal Advances in Neonatal Care.

In some cases, the possibility of interruptions kept mothers from starting pumping breast milk because they feared they would miss updates about their baby's progress delivered during a doctor's rounds. Missing that opportunity might mean they would have to wait hours before being able to meet with the doctor again.

Some of the women also said they felt uncomfortable pumping breast milk in front of doctors making their rounds.

"The meaning of privacy might differ for mothers and the hospital. This calls for new ways to create privacy for these mothers who want to breast-feed," study lead researcher Donna Dowling said in a university news release.

Of the 40 mothers in the study, 75 percent said before giving birth that they planned to breast-feed. However, only 45 percent were breast-feeding exclusively when their babies were discharged from the NICU.

Interruptions and privacy weren't the only issues. Many mothers found it difficult to breast-feed exclusively because of family, home and work responsibilities, the researchers said.

More information

The U.S. Office on Women's Health has more about breast-feeding.


SOURCE: Case Western Reserve University, news release, Jan. 16, 2013

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