Why some bubs are less likely to breastfeed: Westmead Hospital researcher cracks the code

Congratulations to Westmead Hospital Neonatal ICU Registered Nurse, Rachel Jones, for recently winning the New Investigator Award: Neonatal Nursing at the Perinatal Society of Australia and New Zealand (PSANZ) Annual Congress.

Rachel’s ground-breaking research in the Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) identified the most vulnerable groups of mothers and babies, who are at risk of not being fully able to breastfeed when they leave hospital. This allows for resources to be targeted while they remain in care.

Rachel’s Westmead Hospital colleague, clinical midwife consultant, Sarah J Melov, was also critical in this award-winning research with it being a continuation on from preliminary work she completed at WSLHD looking at women with diabetes and breastfeeding outcomes.

Both studies found that infants who come to the nursery for a short period are 61% less likely to fully breastfeed when leaving hospital compared to those who do not.

The research examined infants born over a three-year period from January 2018 to December 2020, and investigated how they were breastfeeding when discharged from hospital when compared to those who were admitted to the nursery for a short period.

“How a baby is feeding upon leaving the hospital is a key indicator for long-term breastfeeding success,” said Rachel.

“If the baby was admitted to the nursery, irrespective of length of time or why, this became a leading risk factor for the infant to not fully breastfeed on hospital discharge.

“The biggest risk factor was found to be if a baby has had a short admission to the neonatal nursery.”

Rachel added that staff must find ways to reduce avoidable nursery admission to avoid a mother and infant from being unnecessarily separated.

“Bonding and attachment through skin-to-skin soon after birth has a profound effect on breastfeeding success,” said Rachel.

Winning this award was significant to Rachel as she sees it as a great opportunity to “shine a spotlight on the need to reduce the level of separation of mothers and babies as much as possible soon after birth.”