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Public Health Strategies for Breastfeeding

Key points

  • Breastfeeding helps protect the health of infants and their mothers.
  • State and local organizations can support breastfeeding where families live, learn, work, and play.
  • Actions may include implementing organizational policies, systems, and environment solutions.
Woman breastfeeding a newborn.


Breastfeeding has health benefits for both babies and mothers. Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants and supports growth and development. Breastfeeding can also help protect baby and mom against certain illnesses and diseases.

Consistent, collaborative, and delivery of high-quality services from pregnancy until families are no longer breastfeeding is called continuity of care. This support helps women initiate and continue to breastfeed for as long as mother and baby desire.

Breastfeeding initiation and duration vary by race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. Improving continuity of care could address these disparities. For background information on continuity of care, potential activities, resources, and examples of what others are doing, see:

Priority Breastfeeding Strategy: Continuity of Care

Exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months is recommended.

Tools from state programs

Minnesota Breastfeeding-Friendly Health Departments Program: Ten-step process and toolkit for supporting breastfeeding practices at local public health agencies and tribal health boards.

Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program: Recognizes worksites that comply with "Mother-Friendly" criteria, including having a written and communicated policy. The criteria include space for breast milk expression in the worksite, flexible work schedules for breastfeeding mothers, access to clean running water to wash hands and clean equipment, and access to hygienic breast milk storage options.

California's 9 Steps to Breastfeeding Friendly: Guidelines for Community Health Centers and Outpatient Care Settings: Supports community health centers and outpatient care settings to successfully implement practices and policies that protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. The guidelines provide a framework for creating and sustaining a community-based, universally accessible, quality care and support system for breastfeeding mothers and their families.

Wisconsin's Ten Steps to Breastfeeding Friendly Childcare Centers: Resources to help community partners assist childcare center employees and owners with accurate and consistent lactation support to breastfeeding families whose babies are in their care.