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Lactating parents of infants hospitalised for critical congenital heart disease (CHD) face significant barriers to direct breastfeeding. While experiences of directly breastfeeding other hospitalised neonates have been described, studies including infants with critical CHD are scarce. There is no evidence-based standard of direct breastfeeding care for these infants, and substantial practice variation exists.
To explain how direct breastfeeding is established with an infant hospitalised for critical CHD, from lactating parents’ perspectives.
Materials & Methods:
This study is a qualitative grounded dimensional analysis of interviews with 30 lactating parents of infants with critical CHD who directly breastfed within 3 years. Infants received care from 26 United States cardiac centres; 57% had single ventricle physiology. Analysis included open, axial, and selective coding; memoing; member checking; and explanatory matrices.
Findings were represented by a conceptual model, “Wayfinding through the ‘ocean of the great unknown’.” The core process of Wayfinding involved a nonlinear trajectory requiring immense persistence in navigating obstacles, occurring in a context of life-and-death consequences for the infant. Wayfinding was characterised by three subprocesses: navigating the relationship with the healthcare team; protecting the direct breastfeeding relationship; and doing the long, hard work. Primary influencing conditions included relentless concern about weight gain, the infant’s clinical course, and the parent’s previous direct breastfeeding experience
For parents, engaging in the Wayfinding process to establish direct breastfeeding was feasible and meaningful – though challenging. The conceptual model of Wayfinding explains how direct breastfeeding can be established and provides a framework for research and practice.
To determine clinical consensus and non-consensus in regard to evidence-based statements about feeding infants with complex CHD, with a focus on human milk. Areas of non-consensus may indicate discrepancies between research findings and practice, with consequent variation in feeding management.
Materials and Methods:
A modified Delphi survey validated key feeding topics (round 1), and determined consensus on evidence-based statements (rounds 2 and 3). Patients (n=25) were an interdisciplinary group of clinical experts from across the United States of America. Descriptive analysis used SPSS Statistics (Version 26.0). Thematic analysis of qualitative data provided context for quantitative data.
Round 1 generated 5 key topics (human milk, developing oral feeding skills, clinical feeding practice, growth failure, and parental concern about feeding) and 206 evidence-based statements. The final results included 110 (53.4%) statements of consensus and 96 (46.6%) statements of non-consensus. The 10 statements of greatest consensus strongly supported human milk as the preferred nutrition for infants with complex CHD. Areas of non-consensus included the adequacy of human milk to support growth, need for fortification, safety, and feasibility of direct breastfeeding, issues related to tube feeding, and prevention and treatment of growth failure.
The results demonstrate clinical consensus about the importance of human milk, but reveal a need for best practices in managing a human milk diet for infants with complex CHD. Areas of non-consensus may lead to clinical practice variation. A sensitive approach to these topics is needed to support family caregivers in navigating feeding concerns.
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