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Skip Navigation U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Agency for Healthcare Research Quality

Counseling to Promote Breastfeeding

U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Release Date: July 2003

Summary of Recommendations

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommends structured breastfeeding education and behavioral counseling programs to promote breastfeeding.

    Rating: "B" recommendation.

    Rationale: The USPSTF found fair evidence that programs combining breastfeeding education with behaviorally-oriented counseling are associated with increased rates of breastfeeding initiation and its continuation for up to 3 months, although effects beyond 3 months are uncertain. Effective programs generally involved at least 1 extended session, followed structured protocols, and included practical, behavioral skills training and problem-solving in addition to didactic instruction.

    The USPSTF found fair evidence that providing ongoing support for patients, through in-person visits or telephone contacts with providers or counselors, increased the proportion of women continuing breastfeeding for up to 6 months. Such support, however, had a much smaller effect than educational programs on the initiation of breastfeeding and its continuation for up to 3 months. Too few studies have been conducted to determine whether the combination of education and support is more effective than education alone.

  • The USPSTF found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against the following interventions to promote breastfeeding: brief education and counseling by primary care providers; peer counseling used alone and initiated in the clinical setting; and written materials, used alone or in combination with other interventions.

    Rating: "I" statement.

    Rationale: The USPSTF found no evidence for the effectiveness of counseling by primary care providers during routine visits and generally poor evidence to assess the effectiveness of peer counseling initiated from the clinical setting when used alone to promote breastfeeding in industrialized countries. The evidence for the effectiveness of written materials suggests no significant benefit when written materials are used alone and mixed evidence of incremental benefit when written materials are used in combination with other interventions.

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Guide to Clinical Preventive Services, 3rd Edition: Periodic Updates
Counseling for Breastfeeding, July 2003
Recommendations and Rationale (PDF File, 83 KB; PDF Help)
Evidence Review (PDF File, 250 KB; PDF Help)

What's New (PDF File, 70 KB; PDF Help)

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Current as of July 2003

Internet Citation:

Counseling for Breastfeeding, Topic Page. July 2003. U.S. Preventive Services Task Force. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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