ORCID : 0000-0002-3256-5407
International Breastfeeding Journal
BMC / Springer
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Edith Cowan University - Open Access Support Scheme 2021
Extremely preterm infants need advanced intensive care for survival and are usually not discharged before they reach the time of expected birth. In a family-centred neonatal intensive care unit both parents are involved at all levels of care including the feeding process. However, studies focusing on fathers in this situation are scarce. The purpose of this study was to explore the experiences of feeding extremely preterm infants in a neonatal intensive care unit from fathers’ perspectives.
The study adopts a qualitative inductive method, reported according to the COREQ checklist. Seven fathers of extremely preterm infants (gestational age 24–27 weeks) in neonatal intensive care in Sweden were interviewed by telephone after discharge in 2013–2014. The interviews were analysed using a qualitative content analysis and confirmed by triangulation in 2021.
Six sub-categories and two generic categories formed the main category: “a team striving towards the same goal”. The fathers were equally involved and engaged members of the feeding team all hours of the day. The fathers shared responsibility and practical duties with the mothers, and they provided as much support to the mothers as they could. However, the fathers found it difficult to support and encourage the mothers to breastfeed and express breastmilk when the breastmilk production was low. The fathers experienced a loss when breastfeeding was not successful.
The findings indicate that fathers want to be involved with infant care, including night-time feeds, and long and demanding feeding processes. Fathers and staff need to collaborate to provide the best support to mothers during the feeding process. This study may inspire hospital staff to acknowledge and support fathers to become more involved in the oral feeding process when an infant is born extremely preterm.
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