Policy Resource

Alaska Works to Increase Initiation and Continuation of Breastfeeding

Sep 1, 2017

Initiation of breastfeeding has increased through the efforts of the All Alaska Pediatric Partnership “Breastfeeding Workgroup" which includes representatives from various communities and programs across the state that work with women to promote breastfeeding.

The members share resources with one another and regularly review data as they work together to promote and sustain breastfeeding. The Alaska Division of Public Health has sponsored and facilitated access to trainings for birthing facilities statewide to support best practices related to breastfeeding. This helps support facilities as they take steps to meet the criteria for a baby-friendly hospital, as defined by the Baby-Friendly USA standards, based on World Health Organization standards.

However, Alaska’s Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) state leaders noticed that the state’s breastfeeding continuation at six months was proving to be a challenge. The state MIECHV Coordinator worked hand-in-hand with the Team Manager for Providence Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), and the Local Implementing Agency (LIA) to initiate a number of strategies that supported the nurse home visitors to increase the breastfeeding initiation rate from 83% in December 2013 to an astonishing 100% in December 2018, and the continuation rate at six months from 20% to 52.5% during that same time period. These figures parallel those across the state showing that this program is closing the gap for overburdened and under-resourced families.

Strategies focused on helping home visitors develop the skills, understanding, and access to resources so that they can best support mothers to plan for, initiate, and continue breastfeeding. nurse home visitors received in-depth group training and individual sessions with a lactation consultant. With support of the state, the local implementing agency developed a library of core resources and visual aid kit that nurse home visitors can bring to home visits with families.

Beyond the training, resources, and tools, the program supports frequent nurse home visits during the first six weeks following the birth. If the nurse notices a challenge, she can promptly refer the mother to a lactation consultant for additional support. As part of a private health system, the agency has access to a lactation clinic, family counseling clinic, parenting classes, and a gift shop, the Breastfeeding Boutique, that offers nursing bras and other helpful supplies. All families enrolled in MIECHV receive scholarships for free supplies and classes at the Boutique.

Updated March 2019.

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