Helping Hospitals Help Mothers


Breastfeeding is one of the most effective preventive health measures, presenting benefits for both infants and mothers. Yet the United States lags behind most developed countries in breastfeeding rates. In 2011, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a funding opportunity aimed at increasing these rates by helping hospitals improve maternity care to better support new mothers who choose to breastfeed.


The CDC awarded us the cooperative agreement to lead Best Fed Beginnings, a first-of-its-kind, nationwide quality improvement initiative. We created a collaborative learning system with expert faculty and technical support to help 89 participating hospitals across the country as they tested, implemented and now work to sustain system-level change around the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. The ultimate goal of the work is to increase the number of Baby-Friendly facilities. We had previously run a state-based effort with similar objectives in New York, and were able to apply effective methods at a larger scale in this project.


  • More than 281,000 babies per year have been helped by this project. 
  • On average, the 89 hospitals increased exclusive breastfeeding rates from 49 percent to 58 percent in 18 months.
  • Increased the number of births in Baby-Friendly designated hospitals by 155,000 per year.
  • Our experience on Best Fed Beginnings complements our involvement in state-based projects in Texas and New York, bringing the total number of hospitals and birthing facilities working with us to improve maternity care to more than 150.
Exclusive Breastfeeding Rate Average for All Three Best Fed Beginnings Regions

By the Numbers

The 89 hospitals participating in the Best Fed Beginnings project substantially increased exclusive breastfeeding rates.