Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Interventions to Improve Breastfeeding Rates at Discharge Among Preterm and Low Birth Weight Infants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
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Background: While breast milk is widely accepted as the best source of nutrients for almost all newborns, breastfeeding can be especially challenging for preterm and low birth weight (LBW) infants. With increased risk of admission to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and separation from parents, this population experiences significant barriers to successful breastfeeding. Thus, it is crucial to identify interventions that can optimize breastfeeding for preterm and LBW infants that is continued from birth and admission, through to hospital discharge and beyond. Objectives: To identify and analyze evidence-based interventions that promote any and exclusive breastfeeding among preterm and LBW neonates at discharge and/or postdischarge from hospital. Methods: A systematic review was conducted according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) checklist. Searches were performed in the following databases: MEDLINE Ovid, EMBASE, Web of Science, and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health (CINAHL). Results: From the 42 studies included, 6 groups of intervention types were identified: educational and breastfeeding support programs, early discharge, oral stimulation, artificial teats and cups, kangaroo mother care (KMC), and supportive policies within NICUs. All groupings of interventions were associated with significantly increased rates of any breastfeeding at discharge. All types of interventions except artificial teats/cups and oral stimulation showed statistically significant increases in exclusive breastfeeding at discharge. KMC demonstrated the highest increased odds of breastfeeding at discharge among preterm and LBW infants. Conclusions: A variety of effective interventions exist to promote breastfeeding among hospitalized preterm and LBW infants. Hospital settings hold unique opportunities for successful breastfeeding promotion. PROSPERO registration: CRD42021252610.