Breastfeeding Patterns of Low-Birth-Weight Infants After Hospital Discharge


  • Pamela D. Hill RN, PhD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Pamela D. Hill is an associate professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing, Quad Cities Program, Rock Island.
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  • Rita J. Ledbetter RN, MS, CNM,

    1. Rita J. Ledbetter is with the University of Illinois at Chicago, College of Nursing, Nurse-Midwifery Program, Chicago.
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  • Karen L. Kavanaugh RN, PhD

    1. Karen L. Kavanaugh is an assistant professor at the University of Illinois Chicago, College of Nursing, Chicago.
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Address for correspondence: Pamela D. Hill, RN, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Illinois at Chicago, Quad-Cities Regional Program, 2525 24th St., Suite 202, Rock Island, IL 61201.


Objective: To examine the feeding patterns of low-birth-weight infants (1,500–2,500 g) on the day of hospital discharge and 4 weeks after birth.

Design: Prospective, descriptive survey.

Setting: Eight hospitals in the Midwest.


One hundred ten mothers who intended to breastfeed their low-birth-weight infants.

Main Outcome Measures:

Two different tools were used to address infant breastfeeding patterns and effectiveness of infant feeding at the breast as reported and rated by the mothers.


At hospital discharge, 38% of the infants were exclusively fed at the breast. Only 52% of the full-term, low-birth-weight infants and 52% of the preterm low-birth-weight infants had effective vigorous feedings at the breast at hospital discharge as rated by the mothers. At 4 weeks, 40% of the infants were fed exclusively at the breast and 19% were weaned to formula.

Conclusions: The several feeding patterns and modes of feeding identified with low-birth-weight infants suggest that appropriate tools be designed and tested with mothers of low-birth-weight infants. In addition, the definition of breastfeeding must be explored. JOGNN, 26, 189–197; 1997.