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JAMA Patient Page
October 25, 2016

Interventions to Support Breastfeeding

JAMA. 2016;316(16):1726. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.15920

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has published updated recommendations on ways that primary care clinicians can support patients with the process of breastfeeding.

Why Is Breastfeeding Important?

Breastfeeding provides health benefits to both babies and mothers. Breast milk provides optimal nutrition for babies and helps build up babies’ immune systems to fight and prevent infections. Breastfeeding may also help with maternal weight loss after birth and can be a special bonding experience for mothers and babies. However, for many women, breastfeeding is challenging, especially in the early weeks after birth. Therefore, providing interventions for pregnant women and new mothers can help them have the appropriate knowledge, expectations, and support network to start and continue breastfeeding.

What Are the Interventions to Support Breastfeeding?

Doctors and nurses can help support women who wish to breastfeed by providing ways for them to get professional support (eg, from a lactation counselor), peer support (eg, from a mothers support group), or formal education (eg, from classes, videos, print materials) on breastfeeding. These avenues can then provide useful information about breastfeeding, including the following:

  • Information about the benefits of breastfeeding

  • Information about breastfeeding supplies (eg, nursing clothes, breast pumps)

  • Direct support on how to breastfeed (eg, help with latching and positioning)

  • Psychological encouragement and reassurance

What Is the Patient Population Under Consideration for Interventions to Support Breastfeeding?

The USPSTF recommendation applies to pregnant women and new mothers but may also involve the friends and family members of these women.

What Are the Potential Benefits and Harms of Providing Interventions to Support Breastfeeding?

There is evidence that providing interventions to support breastfeeding increases both the number of women who breastfeed and the amount of time that they breastfeed. There is not enough evidence at this time, however, to show that providing these interventions ultimately translates to improved health outcomes for mothers and children. There are few data on the potential harms of providing interventions to support breastfeeding, but they may include increased anxiety about breastfeeding and increased guilt about not breastfeeding.

How Strong Is the Recommendation to Support Breastfeeding?

Based on the current evidence, the USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that the benefits of providing interventions to support breastfeeding outweigh the potential harms.

Bottom Line: Current Recommendation for Providing Interventions to Support Breastfeeding

The USPSTF recommends providing interventions to support breastfeeding to pregnant women and new mothers (called a B recommendation).

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Article Information

Source: US Preventive Services Task Force. Primary care interventions to support breastfeeding: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.14697

Topic: Preventive Medicine