Healthcare Providers

All healthcare professionals are familiar with the positive effects of breastfeeding on the health and development of babies, as well as the benefits breastfeeding provides to the health and well-being of parents. However, despite the benefits, approximately 40% of women receiving WIC benefits do not ever breastfeed their infants. Additionally, the majority of women who have breastfed stop well before the child turns one year old. 

Encouragement, support, education, and troubleshooting by healthcare providers can make a big difference in women deciding to try breastfeeding and helping them to stick with it, even as they face challenges and navigate returning to work. 

We encourage all healthcare providers to see themselves and their team as breastfeeding champions. Mid-Shore WIC is here to support you in that goal.

How to Support Breastfeeding – A Patient Perspective

An interview study reported in the International Breastfeeding Journal provides a highly useful patient perspective on how healthcare providers can support and encourage patients to start and continue breastfeeding. The common theme was the need to “offer women sensitive, individualized breastfeeding support to promote a positive breastfeeding experience.”

  1. Provide evidence-based care
    • Healthcare professionals working with postpartum women need to obtain additional knowledge and practical skills to support women in solving their own breastfeeding problems. 
    • Women especially need support around breastfeeding decisions, such as when to discontinue nighttime feedings and when to stop breastfeeding. 
  1. Prepare expectant parents during the pregnancy, not after
    • Healthcare providers should educate expectant parents about available breastfeeding options to enable informed decisions about breastfeeding. 
    • Expectant parents want realistic and practical informal support for initiating and carrying out breastfeeding. Previous studies have shown that healthcare professionals often gave expectant mothers unrealistic expectations of breastfeeding, which left them unprepared to overcome early breastfeeding challenges.
    • Women want additional knowledge about the physiology of breastfeeding, indications of a sufficient milk supply, and how to increase milk production. 
    • Women want healthcare professionals to involve their partners in the dialogues on breastfeeding during prenatal care so that they would not feel left out and would be prepared to support them.
  1. Create a respectful and mutual dialogue 
    • Use open-ended questions and listen to a patient’s experiences, intentions, and goals in relation to breastfeeding. 
    • Open-ended questions give women the opportunity to lead dialogues on breastfeeding without feeling pressured about breastfeeding.
    • Providers should be especially attuned to their verbal and nonverbal communication when talking with a woman who is experiencing challenges breastfeeding. Struggling patients can often feel like a failure and may perceive judgment from healthcare providers if they have an insufficient milk supply and are not able to exclusively breastfeed. 
  1. Offer individual solutions to breastfeeding problems
    • A majority of women stop breastfeeding earlier than they would like because they perceive that they have breastfeeding problems such as an insufficient milk supply or problems with their baby’s weight.
    • Women need continuous, proactive support when they experience breastfeeding problems because they do not always seek support when they have unresolved breastfeeding issues. 
  1. Offer practical support 
    • Healthcare professionals should provide women with practical breastfeeding skills. 
    • Women want breastfeeding support that helped them learn for themselves.
    • A hands-off approach may be more useful in strengthening women’s self-confidence about breastfeeding. This means coaching the woman, but letting her handle and position the baby herself.

Healthcare Practice Resources

  • Mid-Shore WIC makes breastfeeding information and handouts for parents available to healthcare providers free of charge. Call us at (410) 4798065 if your practice is in need of resources.
  • LactMed, the National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network (TOXNET): A database of drugs and other chemicals to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. It includes information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects in the nursing infant. Suggested therapeutic alternatives are provided to those drugs where appropriate.

Making WIC Referrals

Healthcare providers can help pregnant women be as healthy as possible and start babies on a better path to health and well-being by making referrals to the WIC program. WIC is an income-qualifying program, but an easy rule to remember that women, infants, and children who are eligible for Medicaid or food stamps automatically meet the income requirements for WIC.

The earlier you make a referral, the greater the positive impact on a family. Please consider including our Mid-Shore WIC referral forms in your patient information packet and any time patients need to update their paperwork. Completed forms can be faxed to us at (410) 479-4417 or scanned and emailed to our office.

If you would like to receive printed copies of the referral forms or educational brochures and handouts about WIC, please contact our office at (410) 479-8060. Additionally, many helpful materials for healthcare providers are available on the Maryland WIC website.

× Chat with WhatsApp