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Press Releases : 2015 Press Releases

Breastfeeding Rates Improve with Support and Education for Mothers

Tuesday, June 2, 2015  
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Breastfeeding Rates Improve with Support and Education for Mothers

— Research Published in Leading Nursing Journal Indicates Evidence-Based Breastfeeding Education

Improves Breastfeeding Outcomes, Benefits Sick Newborns —


Washington, DC, June 2 , 2015 — Although 79% of mothers in the United States initiate breastfeeding after birth, this statistic includes women who breastfeed their infants just one time. Only about 19% of infants are breastfed exclusively during the first six months of life. However, when mothers receive support and education from expert nurses, the length of breastfeeding longevity increases. The health benefits of breastfeeding are well documented in the literature. For the mother, benefits include decreased blood loss and greater weight loss after birth, reduced risk of postpartum infection and anemia, and reduced risk of disease later in life. For infants, benefits include reduced rates of infections reduced sudden infant death syndrome, and reduced disease later in life. Breastfeeding is also associated with increased cognition and neurodevelopment in infants. Emerging research indicates stronger associations between longer duration of exclusive breastfeeding and enhanced maternal and infant benefits.


 The May/June 2015 issue of Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN) from the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) features a series of articles about research on breastfeeding and providing guidance to mothers. The research highlights the benefits of evidence-based education about breastfeeding for nurses and how these initiatives can support providing guidance to mothers. “Evidence demonstrates that promoting the use of human milk and breastfeeding improves short and long term health outcomes,” wrote guest editor Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, a professor of perinatal nursing at the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing and Director of the Lactation Program at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “As health professionals, it is our responsibility to ensure that all mothers have the opportunity to make informed decisions about breastfeeding their children.

Evidence-based breastfeeding support and care will allow mothers to reach their personal goals.”

Researchers Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN, FAAN; Elizabeth B. Froh, PhD, RN; Regina Flynn-Roth, MSN, RN-BC, CPAN; and Sharon Barton, PhD, PCNS-BC, RN examined a nurse training model in “Improving Practice at the Point of Care Through Optimization of the Breastfeeding Resource Nurse Model.” Through surveys and interviews of 425 nurses who took a specialized course, the researchers found participating nurses incorporated evidence-based breastfeeding support into their daily work and became breastfeeding advocates in their communities.


The Breastfeeding Resource Nurse program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia was evaluated in “The Voices of Breastfeeding Resource Nurses” by Elizabeth B. Froh, PhD, RN; Regina Flynn-Roth, MSN, RN-BC, CPAN; Sharon Barton, PhD, PCNS-BC, RN; and Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN, FAAN. These researchers surveyed and interviewed participating nurses about their roles at the hospital to learn of their successes, challenges, and suggestions for improvement. They found nurses armed with evidence-based knowledge about lactation and breastfeeding felt more successful and personally fulfilled in their work to support breastfeeding.


Karen Fugate, BSN, RNC-NIC, CPHQ; Ivonne Hernandez, PhD, RN, IBCLC; Terri Ashmeade, MD, CPHQ; Brank Miladinovic, PhD; and Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FANN, studied implementation of a process to improve the number of infants receiving their mother’s milk in “Improving Human Milk and Breastfeeding Practices in the NICU.” The Spatz Ten Step process resulted in a three-fold improvement in the rate of newborns receiving human milk by the time of hospital discharge.


In “Making Meaning of Pumping for Mothers of Infants with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia,” Elizabeth B. Froh, PhD, RN; Janet A. Deatrick, PhD, RN, FAAN; Martha A. Q. Curley, PhD, RN, FAAN; and Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, conducted interviews of mothers with infants who experienced a stay in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). While their newborns could not breastfeed, mothers shared benefits of pumping breast milk to maintain the supply and motivate them to breastfeed when the infant was able.


Kimberly Martino, BS; Meg Wagner, MSN, RN; Elizabeth B. Froh, PhD, RN; Alexandra L. Hanlon, PhD; and Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN, FAAN, studied “Post-Discharge Breastfeeding Outcomes of Infants with Complex Surgical Anomalies.” From 165 interviews of mothers with infants who had surgery, the researchers found breastfeeding outcomes improved with a strong lactation program, nursing staff with breastfeeding education, and a hospital culture supportive of breastfeeding. Although infants were discharged home with feeding tubes, mothers pumped and supplied milk for an average of eight months, which is significantly longer than national breastfeeding rates.


“The overwhelming evidence shows that nurses trained to support breastfeeding can help mothers achieve success, which results in lengthier breastfeeding and positive health outcomes for infants. Newborns with medical complications can especially benefit from receiving human milk,” said AWHONN CEO, Lynn Erdman, MN, RN, FAAN. “Research demonstrates the benefits of breastfeeding, and nurses can play a vital part in improving breastfeeding longevity.”


For media interviews, contact:

Kelly Mack for AWHONN





The Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, & Neonatal Nursing (JOGNN), is an internationally ranked scientific and technical journal published bimonthly by the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses. JOGNN is online at  



Since 1969, the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) has been the foremost authority promoting the health of women and newborns and strengthening the nursing profession through the delivery of superior advocacy, research, education, and other professional and clinical resources. AWHONN represents the interests of 350,000 registered nurses working in women's health, obstetric, and neonatal nursing across the United States. Learn more about AWHONN at

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AWHONN is approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing, Provider #CEP580. Accredited status does not imply endorsement by AWHONN or the American Nurses Credentialing Center of any commercial products displayed or discussed in conjunction with educational activities.

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