Physician Education and Training to Support Breastfeeding

Physicians and other healthcare providers working in maternal and child health (obstetrics, pediatrics, family practice) need knowledge and skills in breastfeeding management to best support their patients.

Breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for most infants and reduces the risk for some health conditions in both infants and mothers. Exclusive breastfeeding for about the first 6 months, with continued breastfeeding up to 1 year or longer along with introducing complementary foods, is recommended by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans [PDF-30.6MB], the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Many factors make the difference in whether and how long infants are breastfed. Breastfeeding promotion and support by physicians starts prenatally and continues through the intrapartum and postpartum periods. As trusted health advisors, physician support and management of breastfeeding is important to help families meet their breastfeeding goals. But research shows that physicians generally lack adequate breastfeeding education and training. Better training in this area 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, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) funded the American Academy of Pediatrics to implement the Physician Education and Training on Breastfeeding Project. The goals of this project are to:

  • Increase the availability and accessibility of medical provider education and training related to breastfeeding.
  • Improve 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 (PAC) consisted of breastfeeding subject matter experts and key representatives from the following organizations:

    • Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM)
    • American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP)
    • American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)
    • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)
    • American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians (ACOP)
    • Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN)
    • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
    • National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA)
    • National Medical Association (NMA)
    • Reaching Our Sisters Everywhere (ROSE)
    • United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC)

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

Physician Education and Training on Breastfeeding Action Plan [PDF-686KB] includes recommendations for addressing gaps in breastfeeding training and education for physicians. It has special emphasis on underserved populations and training to support the safe implementation of evidence-based maternity practices supportive of breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding and Lactation for Medical Trainees provides guidance for medical schools, residency and fellowship programs, clinics, hospitals, and healthcare systems to develop policies that support their breastfeeding medical trainees. Learning collaboratives designed to implement and adapt this model policy are being developed with medical schools and residency programs.

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

Creating a Culture to Support Breastfeeding Physicians and Medical Trainees [PDF-683KB] provides guidance on addressing barriers and creating a culture of support for breastfeeding within the medical community. This resource can be used to support 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 with evidence-based care when possible.

Lactation Support Provider (LSP) Descriptors Chart [PDF-193KB] describes each category of lactation support provider, including 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 provides guidance for the integration of breastfeeding medicine throughout undergraduate, graduate, and postgraduate medical education of physicians.

Links to non-federal government organizations found on this resource page are provided solely as a service to the reader. These links do not constitute an endorsement of these organizations or their programs by CDC or the federal government, and none should be inferred. CDC is not responsible for the content of the individual organization sites listed on this website.

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