Get access

Biophysiologic and Social Stress Relationships with Breast Milk Feeding Pre- and Post-Discharge from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit


  • Isabell B. Purdy,

    Corresponding author
    • Correspondence

      Isabell B. Purdy, PhD, NNP, CPNP, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, 10833 Le Conte Avenue, MDCC, Room B2-375 Mailcode 175217, Los Angeles, CA 90096-1752.

    Search for more papers by this author
  • Namrata Singh,

  • Cindy Le,

  • Cynthia Bell,

  • Christy Whiteside,

  • Mara Collins

  • The authors report no conflict of interest or relevant financial relationships.



To determine influences on incidence of breast milk feeding (BMF) at time of discharge and 6 months later among infants cared for in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).


A 2-year prospective descriptive NICU hospital-based cohort design.


Academic Center Level III-IV NICU.


Five hundred and thirty-five infants cared for in NICU and a subgroup of one hundred twenty-nine participant mothers who answered questionnaires.


Predischarge data were collected using maternal and infant medical records. Post-discharge data were collected from maternal questionnaires.


At NICU discharge, biophysiologic stressors predictive of not receiving BMF included birth weight <1500 grams (p < .035), heart surgery (p = .014), and inhaled nitric oxide treatment (p = .002). Teenage mothers were less likely to BMF (p = .022). After discharge, BMF duration correlated with BMF duration of a prior infant (p < .009). Most mothers reported BMF >4 months, 91% continued pumping, and 89% indicated an interest in a hospital support group. Logistic regression analysis (R2 0.45) identified factors that significantly increased the likelihood of BMF > 4 months: BMF plan (p < .001), convenience (p = .018), and family as resource (p = .025). Negative associations were: awareness of immune benefits (p = .025), return to work (p = .002), and infants requiring surgical ligation of the patent ductus arterious (p = .019).


Social and medical stressors contribute to BMF duration pre- and post-NICU discharge. We speculate that active NICU BMF support targeting vulnerable infants and their families and assisting with plans for BMF pre- and post-discharge will help overcome barriers.