Building a Breastfeeding-Friendly Community Hospital, Healthcare Providers Key

by Tami Frank, Partnership for a Healthy Lincoln

The Lincoln Community Breastfeeding Initiative (LCBI) began four years ago with a goal of providing accurate, consistent breastfeeding information to moms across the spectrum of care. Interest came from two Lincoln hospitals, CHI Health St. Elizabeth and Bryan Medical Center, providers, community organizations, and breastfeeding advocates. Based on local gaps and evidence based research, the LCBI identified the need for a multi-faceted approach to breastfeeding support. Since then, the LCBI has grown to include efforts focused on improving support from employers, child care centers, families, and the community as a whole.

Building Breastfeeding Partnerships Benefits

Many know the health benefits associated with breastfeeding for baby and mom, but many don’t realize how breastfeeding can benefit the community as a whole.

“When the entire community comes together and provides consistent information, it provides more support for moms. Breastfeeding can be hard. When it is hard, women need to know they have resources available to help them meet their breastfeeding goals,” said Leah James, lactation consultant for CHI Health St. Elizabeth.

  • In Lincoln, over 91% of moms intend to breastfeed and thanks to the maternity care practices at CHI Health St. Elizabeth and Bryan Medical Center, nearly 86% are able to exclusively breastfeed while in the hospital (excluding medical necessity).
  • According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health, the United States would also save $2.2 billion per year in medical care costs for exclusively breastfed infants than never-breastfed infants. Breastfed infants usually need fewer sick care visits, prescriptions, and hospitalizations.
  • Employer costs are also lower. Mothers who breastfeed miss less work to care for sick infants than mothers who deed their infants formula. Employers also benefit from higher productivity, lower health care costs, higher loyalty, lower turnover rates, better job satisfaction, and enhanced overall company image and recruiting benefits.
  • The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding states that if 90% of families breastfed exclusively for 6 months, nearly 1,000 deaths among infants could be prevented.

How is a Breastfeeding-Friendly Community Created?

Creating a breastfeeding-friendly environment takes committed hospitals and an entire community dedicated to supporting breastfeeding moms.

“By implementing community-wide standards of care around skin-to-skin and breastfeeding support, our city has a skin-to-skin rate of 80% and a much higher than the national average of moms who breastfeed,” says April Deis, (title) at Bryan Medical Center

Hospitals can implement or review maternity care practices regarding:
  • Skin-to-Skin contact: all healthy newborns can benefit from being placed in direct skin-to-skin contact with mom immediately after delivery and until the first feeding is accomplished, including cesarean births. One of many benefits is that it improves breastfeeding success.
  • Education and support about breastfeeding– All staff need to be trained to provide breastfeeding support and education to all moms, showing them how to recognize effective breastfeeding and how to maintain their milk supply.
  • Exclusive Breastfeeding– Mothers should be encouraged to exclusively breastfeed starting in the hospital (unless there are medical contraindications) as routine supplementation will reduce moms’ milk supply. Pacifiers and artificial nipples should be saved for medical reasons.
  • Rooming-in– Having mom and baby together day and night helps them to recognize feeding cues and improves their chances of breastfeeding success.
  • Support after discharge– Provide moms with a list of local resources available to support her upon discharge. That may be the hospital following up or setting an appointment before discharge with a lactation professional with 2-3 days.
Healthcare providers can:
  • Recommend moms breastfeed and document intent in the medical record
  • Not give out free formula samples or “gift bags” before baby is even born
  • Support immediate and uninterrupted skin-to-skin time
Employers can:
  • Understand the benefits of breastfeeding to moms, babies, and their company through reduced healthcare costs and absenteeism, and increased productivity to name a few
  • Know that Nebraska law requires all employers with 15 or more employees to provide moms with reasonable break time and space to pump
  • Implement lactation support policies and practices to encourage and support nursing moms
Families & Communities can:
  • Learn the benefits of breastfeeding and support the decision of a new mom to breastfeed
  • Ensure breastfeeding support across neighborhoods, cultures, and languages
  • Provide mom with encouragement and additional household help during the first critical months

Lincoln was the first community in Nebraska to start a breastfeeding initiative. With the help of mini-grants from the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition, six other communities have begun a similar community initiative. Ultimately, a breastfeeding-friendly environment leads to healthier communities and a healthier state.

Find out more about the LCBI and resources to develop your breastfeeding-friendly community at

Partnership for Healthy Lincoln (PHL) is a member of the Lincoln Community Breastfeeding Initiative (LCBI. Tami Frank is Vice President of PHL and Project Director for the LCBI. PHL is a non-profit dedicated to the improving community health by increasing fitness, promoting good nutrition, decreasing obesity, supporting breastfeeding, and improving cancer screening rates.