Lactation Curricular Content of Family Nurse Practitioner Programs

Webber, Elaine, and Mary Serowoky

The health promotional value of breastfeeding is underscored in the Surgeon General’s 2011 Call to Action recommending exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life with continued breastfeeding and complimentary foods until at least 12 months of age.  Family Nurse Practitioners (FNP) are in a unique position to promote breastfeeding during the antenatal period as well as manage breastfeeding throughout an infant’s first year of life.  There is a gap in the literature regarding the amount and type of curricular content that is devoted to breastfeeding education in FNP programs.

Purpose:To explore the breastfeeding curricular content offered in FNP programs in the United States. Information gathered from this study will help identify areas of potential curricular enhancement.

Methods:An on-line survey of FNP program directors was conducted during the summer and fall of 2014.  Participants were provided with a weblink to the survey.  Data was collected regarding program descriptors, the amount of course work incorporating breastfeeding and clinical opportunities available to students.

Results:The study sample consisted of 60 respondents from a variety of geographic regions and program sizes. Only three programs offered courses specific to human lactation; the vast majority of programs (82%) devoted 1-2 hours of didactic content on the subject. More than three quarters of the programs (85%) offered students the opportunity to counsel and promote breastfeeding with clients, however none of the programs had breastfeeding clinical competency requirements. 

Discussion:FNPs provide care to both women and children and can play an integral role in breastfeeding promotion and counseling.  There appears to be a lack of education provided to FNPs regarding breastfeeding management. Creative approaches in incorporating lactation education into FNP programs may increase FNPs’ breastfeeding knowledge and enhance their ability to provide support to breastfeeding families.