Background & Goal
The World Health Organization, as well as numerous other worldwide professional groups, recommend that infants are exclusively breastfed for the first six months. In 2014, in the United States, less than 19% of infants were exclusively breastfed for the first six months. The World Health Organization states that millions of infants continue to die from lack of access to human milk/breastfeeding. With the advent of lactation consultants in 1985, many nurses in the United States abdicated their former role as counselor to breastfeeding families. But the continuity of care nurses share with patients is significant, and provides nurses with a unique opportunity to play a critical role in helping breastfeeding families achieve the recommended goal of exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months and continued breastfeeding for a year or more.
To increase breastfeeding in the United States, the current focus has been the implementation of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI). Unfortunately, the BFHI designation neither addresses the needs of vulnerable infants nor includes NICU’s as part of its process. The goal of 10 Steps to Promote & Protect Human Milk and Breastfeeding in Vulnerable Infants is to close the current gap in care that results in our most vulnerable infants, who start life in a NICU and are most in need of human milk, being the least likely to receive human milk at discharge from the NICU.
Dr. Spatz has developed a model of care that has been implemented in hospitals throughout the United States and abroad (including all NICU’s in Thailand) to educate health professionals on the best practices for the use of human milk and breastfeeding in vulnerable infants.