Introduction: In comparison to full-term infants, late-preterm infants (34 0/7 and 36 6/7 weeks’ gestation) have a greater likelihood of morbidity and a three-fold increased risk for mortality. Parents of late-preterm infants have identified inadequate preparation to manage their newborn’s unique needs at home, yet little is known about their hospital discharge experience. This study aims to describe the perspectives of parents surrounding their transition from hospital-to-home with their late preterm infant.
Methods: Twelve parent participants, nine mothers and three fathers, were recruited from Calgary, Alberta, and shared their experience through in-person interviews and one focus group. Interpretative description was used to guide the study, and data was analyzed through interpretive conceptual analysis and description.
Results: Key themes from the parents’ experiences were revealed to be "Fed is best" and "Feeling ready". These two themes support parents’ transition home with their late-preterm infant and are influenced by contextual attributes: "Previous parenting experience" and the "Discharge care setting". Parents described verbal approval from healthcare professionals, early community follow-up, and discharge teaching specific to the unique characteristics of a late-preterm infant to increase their feelings of readiness to transition home. Parents found the care of their late-preterm infant to be normalized, particularly on the postpartum unit. Feeding was found to be the most significant challenge parents’ experienced, and the parent participants expressed a “fed is best” stance indicating that breastmilk is nutritionally superior, yet they feel the most important thing for their newborn is to feed and grow.
Conclusion: Mothers and fathers of late-preterm infants need support from healthcare providers to take care of themselves and to choose a feeding method works best for them and their infant. In hopes of reducing feeding challenges, parents need education on the characteristics of their late-preterm infant before leaving hospital and have teaching reinforced in the community.