Fear, isolation and the importance of support: A qualitative study of parents' experiences of feeding a child born with esophageal atresia

Vuokko Wallace, Kirski Honkolampi, Maija Korhonen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Objective
Feeding and swallowing difficulties in children are increasing due to improved survival rates of children with complex medical conditions. Despite being common complications of esophageal atresia (EA), EA related feeding difficulties have received little attention in research. Establishing positive feeding interactions and practices are important for child health and development, and for parental and child mental health. The current study aimed to investigate the parental experiences of feeding a child born with EA.

Methods
An international online survey was developed and disseminated to parents of children born with EA, aged 0–12 years, in collaboration with a patient charity for EA. Reflexive Thematic Analysis was used to analyze the qualitative survey responses.

Results
176 participants were included in the qualitative sample from a larger international online survey study, chosen by a process of selective coding. Three themes were constructed during the analysis: 1) Anxiety, trauma and loss; 2) Isolated and unsupported; and 3) Supported. The results indicated that parents of children born with EA experienced significant anxiety related to their child's swallowing and feeding difficulties and traumatic experiences during feeding, and that these led to parents feeling a sense of loss and sadness. It was also found that support, or a lack of support, within parents' social environment might mediate parental experiences of child's feeding difficulties.

Conclusions
This study highlighted the importance of support for parents of children born with EA, and suggested a need for improved guidance for feeding and swallowing difficulties.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Pediatric Nursing
Early online date3 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Nov 2022

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