Prenatal intention to breastfeed is influenced to a great extent by health care providers’ opinion and support. Ongoing parental support through in-person visits and phone contacts with health care providers results in increased breastfeeding duration. Pediatric health care providers are in a unique position to contribute to the initial and ongoing support of the breastfeeding dyad. Practices that employ a health care professional trained in lactation have significantly higher breastfeeding initiation and maintenance rates, with mothers experiencing fewer problems related to breastfeeding. The World Health Organization’s Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative describes Ten Steps for Successful Breastfeeding. These 10 steps are based on scientific evidence and the experience of respected authorities. The scientific basis of many of these recommendations can be extended to outpatient pediatric practices. Initiating incremental changes to improving breastfeeding support is of value because there is a dose-response relationship between the number of steps achieved and breastfeeding outcomes.
Establish a written breastfeeding-friendly office policy. Collaborate with colleagues and office staff during development. Inform all new staff about policy. Provide copies of your practice’s policy to hospitals and physicians covering for you.
Encourage breastfeeding mothers to feed newborns only breastmilk and avoid offering supplemental formula or glucose water unless medically indicated. Instruct mother to not offer bottles or a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established.
Offer culturally and ethnically competent care. Understand that families may follow cultural practices regarding infant colostrum consumption and maternal diet during lactation. Provide access to a multilingual staff, translators, and ethnically diverse educational material.
Offer a prenatal visit and show your commitment to breastfeeding during this visit. If providing antenatal care to the mother, broach the subject of infant feeding in the first trimester and continue to express your support of breastfeeding throughout the course of the pregnancy. Inquire about a feeding plan and previous breastfeeding experience. Provide educational material that highlights the many ways in which breastfeeding is superior to formula feeding. Direct education and educational material to all family members involved in child care (father, grandparents, etc.). Encourage attendance of both parents at prenatal breastfeeding classes before parents decide about the feeding plan. Identify patients with lactation risk factors (e.g., flat or inverted nipples, history of breast surgery, no increase in breast size during pregnancy, previous unsuccessful breastfeeding experience).
Collaborate with local hospitals and maternity care professionals in the community. Convey to delivery rooms and newborn units your office policies on breastfeeding initiation. Leave orders in the hospital not to give formula/sterile water/glucose water to the baby without orders and not to dispense commercial discharge bags containing infant formula and/or feeding bottles to mothers. Show support for breastfeeding during hospital rounds. Facilitate breastfeeding within 1 hour of an infant’s birth. Help mothers initiate and continue breastfeeding. Counsel mothers to follow the infant’s hunger and satiety cues and ensure that the infant breastfeeds 8 to 12 times in 24 hours. Encourage rooming-in and breastfeeding on demand.
Schedule a first follow-up visit for the infant 48 to 72 hours after hospital discharge 1
1 In cultures or medical situations in which the dyad has remained hospitalized for long enough that weight gain and parental confidence are established prior to hospital discharge, follow-up may be deferred until the initial well child care visit at 1 to 2 weeks of age if otherwise appropriate.or earlier if there are breastfeeding-related problems, such as excessive weight loss (> 7%) or jaundice present at the time of hospital discharge. Ensure access to a lactation consultant/educator or other health care professional trained to address breastfeeding questions or concerns during this visit. Provide comfortable seating and a nursing pillow for the breastfeeding dyad to facilitate adequate evaluation. Assess latch and successful and adequate breastfeeding at the early follow-up visit. Identify lactation risk factors and assess the infant’s weight, hydration, jaundice, feeding activity, and output. Provide medical help for women with sore nipples or other maternal health problems that impact breastfeeding. Begin by asking parents open-ended questions and then focus on their concerns. Take the time to address the many questions that a mother may have, especially if it is her first nursing experience. Provide close follow-up until the infant is doing well with adequate weight gain and parents feel confident.
Ensure availability of appropriate educational resources for parents. Educational material should not be commercial and not advertise breastmilk substitutes, bottles, or nipples. Educational resources may be in the form of handouts, visual aids, books, and videos. Recommended topics for educational material are growth patterns, feeding, and sleep patterns of breastfed babies; management of growth spurts; recognition of hunger and satiety cues; latch-on and positioning; management of sore nipples; mastitis; low supply; blocked ducts; engorgement; reflux; normal stooling and voiding patterns; maintaining lactation when separated from the infant (e.g., during illness, prematurity, return to work); postpartum depression; maternal medication use; and maternal illness during breastfeeding.
Do not interrupt or discourage breastfeeding in the office. Allow and encourage breastfeeding in the waiting room. Display signs in the waiting area encouraging mothers to breastfeed. Provide a comfortable private area to breastfeed for those mothers who prefer privacy.
Ensure an office environment that demonstrates breastfeeding promotion and support. Eliminate the practice of distribution of free formula and baby items from formula companies to parents. Store formula supplies out of view of parents. Display posters, pamphlets, pictures, and photographs of breastfeeding mothers in your office. Do not display images of infants bottle feeding. Do not accept gifts (including writing pads, pens, or calendars) or personal samples from companies manufacturing infant formula, feeding bottles, or pacifiers. Specifically target material to populations with low breastfeeding rates.
Develop and follow telephone triage protocols to address breastfeeding concerns and problems. Conduct follow-up phone calls to assist breastfeeding mothers. Provide readily accessible resources such as books and protocols to triage nurses.
Commend breastfeeding mothers during each visit for choosing and continuing breastfeeding. Provide breastfeeding anticipatory guidance in routine periodic health maintenance visits. Encourage fathers of infants to accompany mother and baby to office visits.
Encourage mothers to exclusively breastfeed for 6 months and continue breastfeeding with complementary foods until at least 24 months and thereafter as long as mutually desired. Discuss introduction of solid food at 6 months of age, emphasizing the need for high-iron solids, and assess the need for vitamin D supplementation.
Set an example for your patients and community. Have a written breastfeeding policy and provide a lactation room with supplies for your employees who breastfeed or express breastmilk at work.
Acquire or maintain a list of community resources (e.g., breast pump rental locations) and be knowledgeable about referral procedures. Refer expectant and new parents to community support and resource groups. Identify local breastfeeding specialists, know their background and training, and develop working relationships for additional assistance. Support local breastfeeding support groups.
Work with insurance companies to encourage coverage of breast pump costs and lactation support services. Bill lactation support codes.
Encourage community employers and day care providers to support breastfeeding.
The following website provides material to help motivate and guide employers in providing lactation support in the workplace : www.hmhbwa.org/forprof/materials/BCW_packet.htm .
All clinical physicians should receive education regarding breastfeeding. Areas of suggested education include the benefits of breastfeeding, physiology of lactation, management of common breastfeeding problems, and medical contraindications to breastfeeding. Make educational resources available for quick reference by health care professionals in your practice (books, protocols, etc.). Staff education and training should be provided to the front office staff, nurses, and medical assistants. Identify one or more breastfeeding resource personnel on staff. Consider employing a lactation consultant or nurse trained in lactation.
Volunteer to let medical students and residents rotate in your practice. Participate in medical student and resident physician education. Encourage establishment of formal training programs in lactation for future and current health care providers.
Track breastfeeding initiation and duration rates in your practice and learn about breastfeeding rates in your community.