Maternal milk and relationships to early neurobehavioral outcome in preterm infants

Roberta Pineda, Rachel Muñoz, Hayley Chrzastowski, Sonya Dunsirn-Baillie, Michael Wallendorf, Joan Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to (1) define medical and sociodemographic factors related to maternal milk feedings and (2) explore relationships between maternal milk feeding and early neurobehavioral outcome. Ninety-two preterm infants born ≤ 32 weeks gestation had maternal milk feeding and breastfeeding tracked in this retrospective analysis. At 34 to 41 weeks postmenstrual age (PMA), neurobehavior was assessed with the NICU Network Neurobehavioral Scale. Maternal milk feeding was often delayed by the use of total parenteral nutrition, administered for a median of 11 (7-26) days, impacting the timing of gastric feeding initiation. Seventy-nine (86%) infants received some maternal milk during neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) hospitalization. Twenty-one (27%) infants continued to receive maternal milk at 34 to 41 weeks PMA, with 10 (48%) of those receiving maternal milk exclusively. Among mothers who initiated maternal milk feeds, 20 (25%) put their infants directly at the breast at least once during hospitalization. Mothers who were younger (P =.02), non-Caucasian (P <.001), or on public insurance (P <.001) were less likely to provide exclusive maternal milk feedings by 34 to 41 weeks PMA. Infants who received maternal milk at 34 to 41 weeks PMA demonstrated better orientation (P =.03), indicating they had better visual and auditory attention to people and objects in the environment. Our findings demonstrate a relationship between maternal milk feedings and better neurobehavior, which is evident before the infant is discharged home from the NICU.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)72-79
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2020


  • barriers
  • breastfeeding
  • development
  • preterm
  • sociodemographics


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