Objective: To describe the breastfeeding characteristics of late-preterm infants (LPIs) in a kangaroo mother care unit (KMC).
Materials and methods: In a 20-bed KMC unit, the breastfeeding of 73 purposively-selected LPIs’ (mean gestational age: 34.8 weeks) was observed once-off, using the Preterm Infant Breastfeeding Behavior Scale. Participants’ mean age was 9.5 days, mean number of days in the unit was 3.1 days, and mean number of days breastfeeding was 7.5 days on observation.
Results: Only 13.7% of participants were directly breastfeeding without supplementary tube-feeding/cupfeeding and 86.3% received supplementary cup-feeding of expressed breast milk. Most participants did not exhibit obvious rooting (83.5%) and although most latched-on (97.3%), those who did, latched shallowly (93%). The mean longest sucking burst was 18.8 (SD: 10.5) and approximately half the participants swallowed repeatedly (53.4%). The mean breastfeeding session duration was 17.8 minutes but most participants breastfed less than 10 minutes (76.7%). No statistically significant associations were found between chronological age and breastfeeding characteristics. A general trend towards more mature behaviors in participants breastfeeding for more days was present for many breastfeeding characteristics. More infants exhibited the most mature behavior for each breastfeeding characteristic when the environment was quiet, rather than noisy and disturbing, except for depth of latching (quiet: 0%, disturbance: 15.2%).
Conclusion: LPIs in this sample presented with subtle, moderate breastfeeding difficulties, highlighting their need for breastfeeding support. Further research is required to examine the effect of KMC on breastfeeding in LPIs.