A Comparison of the Timing of Hand Expressing of Human Milk With Breast Massage to Standard Care for Mothers of Preterm Infants: An Exploratory Pilot Using a Randomized Controlled Design.J Hum Lact. 2023 05; 39(2):226-235.JH
Globally, 10% of all births are preterm. Access to human milk via manual breast expression is required to reduce the incidence of adverse outcomes related to prematurity. However, there is little evidence to recommend optimum timing to commence breast expression in mothers of preterm infants or the most effective method.
(1) To test feasibility of recruitment and compliance to the protocol and (2) to determine influence of using hand expressing and breast massage on milk production, engorgement, mastitis, and breastfeeding status at 3 months.
This study was an exploratory parallel two-group, pilot randomized controlled trial. Mothers of preterm infants at a metropolitan maternity hospital in Queensland Australia (N = 31) were randomized to receive either hand expressing and breast massage within the 1st hr of birth or standard care, hand expressing within 6 hr of birth, to determine the influence on milk production, engorgement, mastitis, and breastfeeding status at 3 months.
Feasibility targets were not met; however, valuable learning from this trial uncovered barriers facing midwives in the birth suite to commencing expressing in the 1st hr of birth. There was no difference in occurrence of secondary outcomes, although trends support future study.
Overall, unpredictability of preterm birth influenced our ability to recruit participants. Important directions for future study design would benefit from incorporating expressing times up to 6 hr with a replicable breast massage.