Breastfeeding For Providers

What Can Providers Do?

Healthcare provider talking to pregnant woman

Start Discussing Breastfeeding Early in Prenatal Care

What you say to expectant mothers and their families can influence their decision whether or not to breastfeed.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends 3-step counseling:

  1. Ask the patient open-ended questions and listen​ to her response.
  2. Summarize ​her response in your own words.
  3. Provide education​, based on her concerns.

Some suggested open-ended questions and discussion points:

What have you heard about breastfeeding?

  • ​Review the benefits for mom and baby: For babies, breastfeeding lowers the risk of acute illnesses (such as respiratory and ear infections), obesity, and asthma/allergies. For women, breastfeeding lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

What have you heard about how long to breastfeed?

  • ​Discuss the recommendation to exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with complementary foods until 1 year of age or longer if mutually desired by the woman and baby.

How does your partner or family feel about breastfeeding?

  • Offer to provide education to a partner or family member who may not be supportive of breastfeeding.

What are your plans for returning to work or school after the baby's birth?

  • Discuss options for expressing milk at work or school and the TN law that employers must accommodate breastfeeding moms at work.

How did feeding go with your older child or children (if applicable)?

  • Congratulate the patient for any previous breastfeeding. Identify any previous challenges and discuss strategies to avoid potential problems.
  • Consider a prenatal consult with a Lactation Professional.


Learn about Local Resources that can Support Your Breastfeeding Patients

The Tennessee Breastfeeding Hotline

Locate an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) or a Designated Breastfeeding Expert.

Learn about La Leche League.


Join Tennessee Initiative for Perinatal Quality Care (TIPQC)

TIPQC seeks to influence health outcomes for mothers and infants in Tennessee by engaging provider- and community-based stakeholders in a perinatal quality collaborative.  The collaborative identifies opportunities to improve birth outcomes through data-driven performance improvement initiatives. 


Complete a Lactation Course

Healthy Children's Center for Breastfeeding - Lactation Certification Courses

International Board of Certified Lactation Examiners - IBCLC Certification


Check Out These Additional Resources

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) - Breastfeeding Toolkit

LactMed, a free online database with information on drugs and lactation

What Can Hospitals Do?

Mother and baby in hospital

Provide and Ensure

  • Breastfeeding education for health clinicians who care for women and children in your facility
  • Access to  lactation professionals (e.g., International Board Certified Lactation Consultants or Certified Lactation Counselors) to your patients
  • Breastfeeding support from delivery through discharge by incorporating the recommendations of UNICEF/WHO’s Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative.


Implement Baby-Friendly USA Hospital Initiative 

Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing facilities must adhere to the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding to receive, and retain, a Baby-Friendly designation.  The Ten Steps are evidence-based breastfeeding practices that were developed by a team of global experts. 

  • Around the world, mothers who give birth at Baby-Friendly hospitals and birthing centers are more likely to initiate breastfeeding, exclusively breastfeed, and sustain breastfeeding longer.
  • In the United States, new mothers exposed to at least six of the Ten Steps were 13 times more likely to continue breastfeeding at 6 weeks postpartum when compared to mothers who had not been exposed to any of the Ten Steps during their birthing hospitalization.
  • Additionally, adherence to the Ten Steps decreases racial, ethnic, and socio-cultural disparities in breastfeeding rates in U.S. hospitals.

 Click here to find a list of Baby-Friendly designated hospitals  by state.

Check Out These Additional Resources

 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC).  This report describes specific opportunities to improve mother-baby care at hospitals and birth centers nationally.