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Physician Education and Training to Support Breastfeeding

At a glance

Physicians and other health care providers working in maternal and child health need knowledge and skills in breastfeeding management to best support their patients. This project addresses gaps in breastfeeding education and training for physicians.

Health care provider talking with a woman holding an infant.

Physician Education and Training on Breastfeeding Project

Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for most infants and reduces the risk for some health conditions in both infants and mothers.

Breastfeeding promotion and support by physicians start prenatally and continue through the intrapartum and postpartum periods. Because physicians are trusted health advisors, their support and management of breastfeeding are important to help families meet their breastfeeding goals. However, research shows that physicians generally lack adequate breastfeeding education and training. Better training can help them gain the appropriate knowledge, skills, and confidence to support families and advocate for breastfeeding-friendly practices where they work.

To increase breastfeeding-related physician education and training, CDC funded the American Academy of Pediatrics to create the Physician Education and Training on Breastfeeding Project. One goal of this project is to increase the availability and accessibility of medical provider breastfeeding education and training. Another goal is to improve the capacity of medical providers to:

  • Facilitate safe implementation of evidence-based maternity care practices at the hospital level and within their practices.
  • Promote continuity of breastfeeding-related care in their communities.

The Project Advisory Committee

The Project Advisory Committee (PAC) included breastfeeding experts and key representatives from:

  • Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine
  • American Academy of Family Physicians
  • American Academy of Pediatrics
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
  • American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians
  • Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • National Hispanic Medical Association
  • National Medical Association
  • Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere
  • United States Breastfeeding Committee

The PAC conducted a landscape analysis of undergraduate and graduate medical education to guide the development of breastfeeding education and training for physicians. The resulting Action Plan served as a basis for production of several resources to address the gaps identified.

Project Resources

The Breastfeeding Curriculum can be used to incorporate breastfeeding education into pediatric, family medicine, preventive medicine, internal medicine, and obstetric/gynecologic residency programs. The curriculum aligns with current teaching strategies and contains culturally competent materials to help residents gain skills and confidence in caring for breastfeeding families.

Physician Education and Training on Breastfeeding Action Plan includes recommendations for addressing gaps in breastfeeding training and education for physicians. It places special emphasis on people who are medically underserved. It also includes training to support the safe implementation of evidence-based maternity practices supportive of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Lactation for Medical Trainees guides medical schools, residency and fellowship programs, clinics, hospitals, and health care systems. The goal is to develop policies that support breastfeeding medical trainees. Learning collaboratives designed to implement and adapt this model policy are being developed with medical schools and residency programs.

Creating a Culture to Support Breastfeeding Physicians and Medical Trainees offers ways to address barriers and create a culture of support for breastfeeding within the medical community. This resource supports breastfeeding physicians at all levels of training.

The Physician's Role in Human Milk Feeding describes why physicians should have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes necessary to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding.

Lactation Support Provider (LSP) Descriptors Chart describes each category of lactation support provider. Includes title, the provider's scope of practice, training requirements, and the provider's associated programs and credentials.

Educational Objectives and Skills for the Physician with Respect to Breastfeeding, Revised 2018 guides the integration of breastfeeding medicine throughout the undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate medical education of physicians.


The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months. Continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods is recommended until children are 12 months old or older.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization also recommend exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months. The groups recommend continued breastfeeding along with introducing appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years or longer.