Infants admitted to neonatal units - interventions to improve breastfeeding outcomes: a systematic review 1990-2007



McInnes R & Chambers J (2008) Infants admitted to neonatal units - interventions to improve breastfeeding outcomes: a systematic review 1990-2007. Maternal and Child Nutrition, 4 (4), pp. 235-263.

This review aimed to identify interventions to promote breastfeeding or breast milk feeding for infants admitted to the neonatal unit. The medical electronic databases were searched for papers listed between 1990 and June 2005 which had breastfeeding or breast milk as an outcome and which targeted infants who had been admitted to a neonatal unit, thus including the infant and/or their parents and/or neonatal unit staff. Only papers culturally relevant to the UK were included resulting in studies from the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. This search was updated in December 2007 to include publications up to this date.We assessed 86 papers in full, of which 27 ultimately fulfilled the inclusion criteria. The studies employed a range of methods and targeted different aspects of breastfeeding in the neonatal unit. Variations in study type and outcomes meant that there was no clear message of what works best but skin-to-skin contact and additional postnatal support seemed to offer greater advantage for the infant in terms of breastfeeding outcome. Galactogogues for mothers who are unable to meet their infants' needs may also help to increase milk supply. Evidence of an effect from other practices, such as cup-feeding on breastfeeding was limited; mainly because of a lack of research but also because few studies followed up the population beyond discharge from the unit.Further research is required to explore the barriers to breastfeeding in this vulnerable population and to identify appropriate interventions to improve breastfeeding outcomes.

breastfeeding; breast milk; premature infant; low-birthweight infant; systematic review

Maternal and Child Nutrition: Volume 4, Issue 4

Publication date31/10/2008
Place of publicationMALDEN, MA

People (1)


Dr Julie Chambers

Dr Julie Chambers

Honorary Research Fellow, Psychology