July 31, 2014

NICHQ Launches Quality Improvement Project to Increase Breastfeeding Rates in New York

The National Institute for Children’s Health Quality (NICHQ) and the New York State Department of Health (DOH) are teaming up to help hospitals improve their breastfeeding rates. A new, five-year quality improvement project will guide nearly 80 hospitals in creating environments that support breastfeeding and reduce racial, ethnic and economic disparities in New York State breastfeeding rates.

Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life can help protect infants from a host of infectious diseases and reduce infant mortality. Despite the many benefits of breastfeeding for mothers and infants, only about 16 percent of American mothers breastfeed exclusively for six months. The New York State rate is identical to the national average. Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as an infant receiving only breast milk and no other liquids or solids except for drops or syrups consisting of vitamins, minerals, or medicines.

"Research shows that babies gain many health benefits from breast milk, especially when mothers exclusively breastfeed for the first six months,” said Acting State Health Commissioner Howard Zucker, MD, JD. “Infants fed only breast milk have fewer episodes of acute illness in infancy and reduced risk of asthma, childhood leukemia, obesity, diabetes and other chronic illnesses later in life. Breastfeeding also benefits mothers by reducing postpartum bleeding and anemia, and decreasing the risk for breast and ovarian cancers. Hospital maternity care staff are uniquely positioned to provide a great beginning by supporting exclusive breastfeeding."

The project to promote exclusive breastfeeding by improving maternity care practices prevents chronic diseases and promotes healthy women, infants, and children, which are two of the five key areas of the State's Prevention Agenda 2013-2017. The Prevention Agenda is a five-year plan that serves as a blueprint for state and local organizations to improve the health of New Yorkers and reduce health disparities.

NICHQ and DOH successfully worked together from 2010-2012 to help 12 hospital teams and more than 50 healthcare professionals make practice improvements to support a mother’s choice to breastfeed. The first project implemented practices to encourage breastfeeding. It successfully:
  • Reduced from 59 percent to 7 percent the number of new mothers who received formula samples and coupons;
  • Reduced the number of new mothers receiving promotional formula materials from 83 percent to 7 percent;
  • Increased the number of infants in participating facilities who were exclusively fed breast milk in the hospital to 45 percent from 37 percent; and
  • Increased the number of breastfeeding infants who stayed in their mother’s room instead of the nursery from 31 percent to 54 percent.
The current NICHQ-DOH effort will run a larger, team-focused quality improvement project called a learning collaborative. Hospitals will learn how to conduct small tests of change, collect data on progress and ultimately make beneficial, sustainable improvements that support breastfeeding. NICHQ will bring teams together virtually and physically to share lessons learned, promote collaboration and learn from improvement and breastfeeding experts.

“In our first project with the state, we helped hospitals increase breastfeeding rates and improve maternity care practices. These efforts have provided a foundation for an expanded initiative to train more hospital teams to increase breastfeeding rates,” says NICHQ President and CEO Charles Homer, MD, MPH. “We are excited to continue our longstanding relationship with the New York State Department of Health and to expand this important initiative to improve maternity care practices statewide.”

NICHQ, working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Baby-Friendly USA, is also conducting a nationwide quality improvement project called Best Fed Beginnings to help hospitals improve maternity practices in support of a mother’s choice to breastfeed. In a third project, NICHQ is working with the Texas Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and the Texas Department of State Health Services to help hospitals in Texas improve their breastfeeding rates.

For more news and updates on breastfeeding, follow NICHQ on Twitter or Facebook.


NICHQ (the National Institute for Children’s Health Quality) is an independent, nonprofit organization working for more than a decade to make children’s health and healthcare better through quality improvement. NICHQ helps healthcare professionals, foundations, government agencies and community organizations make meaningful and sustainable system improvements, so the children they serve can achieve their optimal health. For more information about NICHQ, go to www.NICHQ.org.

If you’d like more information about this topic or to schedule an interview please call or email Cindy Hutter at chutter@nichq.org or 617-391-2797.

Related Information:
• Learn more about NICHQ’s breastfeeding work
• Read NICHQ’s breastfeeding success stories