With breastfeeding rates in the United States failing to meet projected goals, especially in vulnerable communities, there is a need to explore what tools and resources health care providers are equipped with to set their patient families up for breastfeeding success. A recent study published in the Journal of Pediatric Health Care surveyed primary care and dual track pediatric nurse practitioner programs in the United States for their lactation curricular content, including opportunities for clinical experiences and use of simulation in counseling breastfeeding parents.
This study sought to determine specific factors such as the quantity and content of lactation education provided to students enrolled in primary care and dual-track pediatric nurse practitioner (PNP) programs, the extent to which lactation education is included in clinical experiences and whether simulation is used to teach clinical lactation skills. Although all surveyed programs reported they included breastfeeding content, there was a wide range in the number of hours devoted to breastfeeding education and the topical areas covered.
“Research has shown that lactation success is directly tied to knowledgeable and compassionate health care providers; integrating comprehensive lactation content into PNP programs is needed to best support dyads in meeting their breastfeeding goals” explained study co-author Dr. Elaine Webber.
With more than half of the responding programs indicating they did not arrange for specific breastfeeding management opportunities and only four programs offering breastfeeding simulation – given breastfeeding management is a hands-on skill, the need to increase clinical opportunities or simulation is essential in learning how to better support breastfeeding dyads.
“Educating health care professionals to be competent in providing lactation care has been correlated with significant improvement in breastfeeding outcomes, thereby reducing known risks, current adversities being experienced, and overall health care costs,” said study co-author Dr. Deborah Busch.
Based on their findings that there is a general lack of standardized lactation education offered in PNP programs, the authors proposed recommendations to further include lactation content throughout existing curricula or for developing a standalone lactation course. In addition, the authors suggested developing and incorporating breastfeeding simulation experiences as a mandatory component for PNP education. By expanding and enhancing the opportunities for students to gain lactation knowledge, there is the opportunity for them to counsel future patients.
The article “Lactation Curricular Content of Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Programs in the United States: A National Survey” was published in the July/August edition of the Journal of Pediatric Health Care and can be accessed here.
Aug. 22, 2023