Research & Practice

Provider-Based Needs Assessment for Lactation Support in Washington State

Washington state’s rate of breastfeeding exclusivity through six months consistently remains above the national average, but falls below the Healthy People 2030 objective of 42.4%, and additional barriers to lactation support exist for low-income nursing parents and families belonging to marginalized identities. In partnership with the Washington State Lactation Collaborative (WLC), this project aimed to understand the needs and capacities of lactation support in Washington state from a provider perspective. An online survey composed of multiple choice and free response questions was created and distributed to lactation support providers statewide. Quantitative and qualitative analyses were conducted to determine the availability and accessibility of breastfeeding support services and the perceived effect of policy, systems, and environment on lactation support. At the survey conclusion, 192 unique responses were recorded from providers of different occupations, regions, and workplaces. The availability of support groups (n=51) and group classes (n=64) were offered by a minority of surveyed providers, but were the most frequently cited service providers wished to offer their communities (n=35). Providers also perceived there to be insufficient lactation support providers within their communities and organizations (n=23) and stressed the need for further BIPOC and multilingual representation within the field (n=13). Translator services (n=121) and materials in multiple languages (n=122) were common, but providers believed them to be insufficient in their accessibility. Policy was a major barrier to lactation support (n=95), and providers cited expanded paid family and medical leave (n=61) and Medicaid coverage of lactation services (n=27) as systemic approaches to improve breastfeeding outcomes. This initial review of lactation support across Washington can direct early allocation of resources and guide further research on specific barriers to breastfeeding exclusivity.

Materials Available

Project Type(s): MPH Practicum, PH Concentration Poster

Author(s): Allison Burkhalter

Program(s): Master of Public Health, RDN Training

Year: 2024