Health-care providers

What should I look for in a health-care provider?

Health-care providers are individuals that have to meet many educational and performance standards, obtain licences, and stay current in their knowledge and skills. Ideally, each health-care provider has thorough breastfeeding knowledge appropriate to their role and is willing to refer families to those providers who are breastfeeding specialists for further support if needed. The health-care provider’s attitude and knowledge can affect breastfeeding success. 

A) Describing health-care providers

Health-care providers have to meet many educational and performance standards, obtain licences, and stay current in their knowledge and skills. Different countries and jurisdictions may have a variety of provider types.

Some health-care providers have additional expertise in breastfeeding (breastfeeding specialists).

1) Doctors

Doctors can care for your family through major health challenges, illness, and accidents.

Family doctors, also known as general practitioners, can help both you and your baby. They co-ordinate care with other doctors and with other providers.

Doctors can be specialized in areas such as delivering babies (obstetricians), caring for sick babies (paediatricians) or premature or sick newborns (neonatologists), doing operations (surgeons), and so on.

2) Other health-care providers

There are many types of other health-care providers, each with unique skills. Breastfeeding families are most likely to come into contact with:  

  • Midwives
  • Nurses
  • Nurse practitioners
  • Physician assistants
  • Speech and language therapists
  • Pharmacists
  • Dieticians

B) The health-care provider’s role in supporting breastfeeding

Your health-care provider’s attitude, knowledge, and even office setting can affect your breastfeeding experience and success (Corriveau 2013; Temple Newhook 2017).

Different health-care providers have different roles. One who is supportive of breastfeeding may be expected to (Gartner 2005; Meek 2019; Meek 2017):  

  • Have current, evidence-based, effective knowledge relevant to their specialty about:
    • Normal breastfeeding.
    • How to solve breastfeeding challenges.
  • Discuss breastfeeding with you during pregnancy and after birth at each visit.
  • Listen to your breastfeeding concerns.
  • Be willing to examine you and your baby.
  • Watch your baby breastfeed.
  • Discuss all possible solutions to breastfeeding problems with you.
  • Know about local breastfeeding specialist services and be willing to refer you.
  • Have a baby-friendly office with no infant formula advertising (Vanguri 2021).
  • Recommend infant formula only when medically necessary.
  • Support you in your decision to breastfeed or not.

Home visits may increase breastfeeding rates (Carvalho 2018; Cheng 2019).

A small number of health-care providers have difficulty giving breastfeeding families the support they need.


Cheng LY, Wang X, Mo PK. The effect of home-based intervention with professional support on promoting breastfeeding: a systematic review. Int J Public Health. 2019 Jun 14
Corriveau SK, Drake EE, Kellams AL, et al. Evaluation of an office protocol to increase exclusivity of breastfeeding. Pediatrics. 2013 May;131(5):942-50
Gartner LM, Morton J, Lawrence RA, et al.; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding. Breastfeeding and the use of human milk. Pediatrics. 2005 Feb;115(2):496-506
Kim YJ. Important Role of Medical Training Curriculum to Promote the Rate of Human Milk Feeding. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2017 Sep;20(3):147-152
Meek JY; Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. Educational Objectives and Skills for the Physician with Respect to Breastfeeding, Revised 2018. Breastfeed Med. 2019 Jan/Feb;14(1):5-13
Meek JY, Hatcher AJ; Section on Breastfeeding. The Breastfeeding-Friendly Pediatric Office Practice. Pediatrics. 2017 May;139(5). pii: e20170647
Temple Newhook J, Newhook LA, Midodzi WK, et al. Determinants of Nonmedically Indicated In-Hospital Supplementation of Infants Whose Birthing Parents Intended to Exclusively Breastfeed. J Hum Lact. 2017 May;33(2):278-284

Vanguri S, Rogers-McQuade H, Sriraman NK; Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. ABM Clinical Protocol #14: Breastfeeding-Friendly Physician's Office-Optimizing Care for Infants and Children. Breastfeed Med. 2021 Feb 10