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Health Care

doctor holding sleeping baby

Nearly all births in the United States occur in hospital settings,1 but hospital practices and policies in maternity settings can undermine maternal and infant health by creating barriers to supporting a mother’s decision to breastfeed. National data from the ongoing CDC survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) indicate that barriers to breastfeeding are widespread during labor, delivery, and postpartum care, as well as in hospital discharge planning.2 Results of the 2015 mPINC survey showed that, on average, U.S. hospitals scored only 79 out of a possible 100 points on an overall measure of breastfeeding-related maternity care.2

Action Guides

How Health Care Can Support Breastfeeding


Hospitals can

  • Partner with Baby-Friendly™ hospitals to learn how to improve maternity care.
  • Use CDC’s Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care (mPINC) survey data to prioritize changes to improve maternity care practices.
  • Stop distributing formula samples and give-aways to breastfeeding mothers.
  • Work with community organizations, doctors, and nurses to create networks that provide at-home or clinic-based breastfeeding support for every newborn.
  • Become Baby-Friendly™.

Doctors and nurses can

  • Help write hospital policies that help every mother be able to breastfeed.
  • Learn how to counsel mothers on breastfeeding during prenatal visits, and support breastfeeding in the hospital and at each pediatric doctor’s visit until breastfeeding stops.
  • Include lactation consultants and other breastfeeding experts on patient care teams.
  • Coordinate lactation care between the hospital and outpatient clinic.




  1. Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Osterman JK. Births: Preliminary Data for 2015. National Vital Statistics Reports 2016 Jun; 65(3):1-15 Available at Access date: August 12, 2016.
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Survey of Maternity Practices in Infant Nutrition and Care. Available at . Access date: August 12, 2016.