4 Simple Ways to Support Breastfeeding in the Hospital Setting

by Angel Christie Angel Christie (New)

Specializes in Postpartum, Lactation consultant. Has 18 years experience.

This article is meant to give the postpartum nurse some ideas in how to support breastfeeding mothers in the hospital. Nurses sometimes don't feel like they have the skills to support the patients but sometimes it isn't about the skills.

Supporting breastfeeding in the hospital

4 Simple Ways to Support Breastfeeding in the Hospital Setting

In the hospital, it can be hard to support mothers in their goals of breastfeeding their babies.  Sometimes it is time-consuming for the nurses to give support to the patients needing help, and sometimes we don’t feel we have the skill or knowledge to help. 

As a lactation consultant in the hospital setting, sometimes, I don’t feel like I have the skills to help babies who are struggling.  But these 4 things I use daily, and they make such a huge difference.

So, what can you do when you feel ill-equipped to help?

1.  Give voice to the mother’s struggle.

New mothers often struggle with their feelings about the difficulties they are having with breastfeeding. Whether it be difficulty with latching, pain with latching and feeding, exhaustion, or worrying if their baby is getting enough...The list goes on.

Examples of how to do this might be:

  • “I can see you are having a difficult time with…”
  • “You look like you are in some pain. Can I help?”
  • “I know this is not going as planned; do you want to talk about it?”
  • “You look like you could use a nap. Why don’t we let you rest for an hour or so.”
  • “Tell me why you are worried your baby isn’t getting enough?”

2.   Be the “bad guy”. 

Mothers often have visitors coming in and out of their room.  Some are invited, and some are not. These mothers need help in letting the visitors know that the baby needs to eat and they will need to step out for a short time so mom and baby can have some privacy. Once the visitors leave take the opportunity to ask the father or other support person to be the one to ask people to leave when needed. They often are very willing to be the visitor police as they don’t feel they are much help in the hospital.

3.   Be a cheerleader.

I know, I know….. you are tired and overworked. I am telling you, though, if you just spend a few minutes while doing your assessment telling the baby how lucky they are to have a mom who is working so hard to give them a healthy start, it will be heard and appreciated. Or if you see the baby latched, comment on what a good job she is doing with feeding her baby. Sometimes, new moms are so worried they are not doing the right thing, that they can’t see what they ARE doing right.  Often times young moms do not have support from others to cheer them on in their breastfeeding journey.

4.  Don’t be afraid to give hands-on help.

I can NOT stress this one enough. Some nurses are afraid to give hands-on help. But I’m here to tell you it’s part of your job.  Yes, I’m saying you may have to touch a breast. How can you show a mom how to hand express without demonstrating it?  How can you show them how to sandwich their breast for a deeper latch?  What about hands-on pumping when they are engorged?  All these things usually require you to demonstrate, with the patient’s consent, of course. 

You can ask a lactation consultant for help if you are lucky to have one at your hospital. But oftentimes, they are busy, and there are more patients than they can handle in one day. You may need to ask for support in learning these skills. As a postpartum nurse, you need to learn some techniques to help your patients learn to breastfeed.

There are many other ways to support new moms, these are just a few of the things that don’t take much time. We as nurses can make such an impact in the lives of our patients and in a time in their lives that they will always remember. Every mother remembers the great nurse that took the time to help them along their journey to become new parents. Every mother also remembers the nurse who didn’t seem to care and didn’t seem to know how to help them. 

Three of these things don’t take any skill as a nurse. It just takes you being observant of what is happening in your patients’ room. Yes, you do need some skill and practice when it comes to helping a mother learn to breastfeed, but there are a lot of things you can do that don’t take much time or skill at all.

So, let’s all slow down a bit in our patient rooms. See what it is they need for support at that moment. Taking a few extra minutes goes a long way and oftentimes makes your day better also. Knowing you took the time to listen to your patient and support them in their journey.

By: Angel Christie RN, IBCLC


Angel Christie

I have been a postpartum nurse for 15+ years and a lactation consultant for the past 6 years in the hospital setting. Supporting mothers in their goals for breastfeeding has been my passion for many years.

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3 Comment(s)

klone, MSN, RN

Specializes in OB-Gyn/Primary Care/Ambulatory Leadership. Has 16 years experience. 14,352 Posts

Great article. One thing I would add to #4 - always always always ask permission first! "Is it okay if I touch?" Do not just go in there and start grabbing the breast.

Klone, IBCLC

Angel Christie

Angel Christie

Specializes in Postpartum, Lactation consultant. Has 18 years experience. 1 Article; 2 Posts

@klone Oh my goodness you are so right! I don’t know how I left that out. Always the first thing I do. 

raven_h17, BSN

Specializes in NICU. Has 1 years experience. 2 Articles; 5 Posts

Hello there!

As a new NICU nurse I so appreciate your article. This was actually one of the more intimidating things for me to learn. I am lucky to have been able to watch the lactation specialist on our unit help moms. This has been particularly helpful when I work nights and there is no specialist working. I have also found that my coworkers who are also moms and have gone through breastfeeding themselves to be wonderful resources! Sometimes it is easy to get so focused on my care for the baby so I appreciate the reminder to slow down and look at the family as a whole. Great article 🙂