By Jennie Bever Babendure, PhD, IBCLC
In the Jan/Feb 2012 edition of the American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, Barbara Morrison and Susan Ludington-Ho published a study looking at Interruptions to Breastfeeding Dyads in an LDRP Unit(1). They observed the doors to the rooms of 30 breastfeeding mother-infant dyads in a community hospital birthing center from 8AM to 8PM on post-delivery day 1, and found that mothers were interrupted an average of 53 times in that 12 hour period. The average duration of interruptions (18.5+/- 34.5min) was longer than the average duration of time alone (15.4+/-17.3 min), and half of the episodes of time alone lasted 10 minutes or less.
As mothers in the study reported that they spent an average of 25.68 minutes (+/-16.7) at each breastfeeding session, these interruptions were likely to impact early breastfeeding when frequent breast stimulation is critical. In fact, breastfeeding frequency was moderately negatively correlated with the number of interruptions. Additionally, the authors found that a mother’s satisfaction with her breastfeeding experiences was significantly correlated with her perception of amount of time alone with her infant, and when mothers felt interruptions interfered with breastfeeding; they found the interruptions more annoying.
Although I was astonished at the number of interruptions this study found in a 12 hour period (consistent with an earlier study in a university hospital(2)), I was not surprised that frequent interruptions impact breastfeeding. Given attitudes in the United States about breastfeeding in public, mothers may feel self-conscious about baring their breasts to visitors, nurses, and other hospital staff members while learning to breastfeed. Ideal amounts of skin-to-skin contact and relaxation may be difficult to accomplish when mothers feel they need to keep one eye on the door and a cover-up at the ready. Even when this isn’t the case, a mother who finds herself continually interrupted to place her lunch order, talk to visitors, answer the phone, have her vitals checked, and talk to physicians may delay or shorten breastfeeding sessions.
Not surprisingly, the majority of the women in the study only met the minimum recommended number of breastfeeding sessions (4 times in 12 hours), and several mothers fed their babies only 2 or 3 times for less than 15 minutes in that time frame. As infrequent and inadequate breastfeeding sessions can rapidly progress to infant weight loss and supplementation, this finding is particularly relevant to the cause of increasing breastfeeding duration and exclusivity. Coupled with this, frequent interruptions may prevent mothers from getting the rest they need to recover from childbirth and have the energy for frequent nighttime feedings.
Undoubtedly, many interruptions are necessary and unavoidable; however Morrison and Ludington-Hoe have a number of suggestions to minimize the impact on breastfeeding. These include:
- Discuss the importance of alone time, Kangaroo care, frequent breastfeeding and limited visitors during prenatal visits, classes and tours.
- Cluster care, plan care activities with mothers to enable quiet times, use door signs to signal time alone, and institute “quiet” times when no visitors or staff enter rooms.
- Minimize rounds and discontinue 24/7 visiting hours.
In our efforts to translate high breastfeeding initiation rates into longer breastfeeding duration, we must continue to remove barriers to establishing a successful breastfeeding relationship. As we think about how to best accomplish this task, minimizing the frequency of interruptions to mothers and baby may be a simple step in the right direction.
1. Morrison BP, RN, FNP, CNM; Ludington-Hoe, Susan PhD, RN, CNM, FAAN. Interruptions to Breastfeeding Dyads in an LRDP Unit. American journal of Maternal Child Nursing 2012;37(1):36-41.
2. Morrison B, Ludington-Hoe S, Anderson GC. Interruptions to breastfeeding dyads on postpartum day 1 in a university hospital. JOGNN: Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing 2006;35(6):709-716.
I am a mother of 2 active boys and an Assistant Research Professor in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation at Arizona State University. As breastfeeding researcher, I am constantly scanning the literature for articles that guide my research and inform my clinical practice. One of my goals is to increase the evidence base of our profession as lactation consultants. I feel it is important for lactation professionals to be aware of and contribute to breastfeeding research, especially when so much of it is fascinating! As an ongoing contributor to Lactation Matters, it is my hope that you will find the articles I highlight as interesting and informative as I do, and that you will use them to guide you in the important work of lactation professionals and breastfeeding advocates.
Lactation Matters Editor’s Note: Just to add, Jennie has a brand new addition to the family. Welcome Noah Lev, born on Oct 28, 2011, who is breastfeeding beautifully! Congratulations !