A Statewide Quality Improvement Collaborative to Increase Breastfeeding Rates in Tennessee

Document Type


Publication Date



Background and Objectives: Tennessee has low breastfeeding rates and has identified opportunities for improvement to enhance maternity practices to support breastfeeding mothers. We sought a 10% relative increase in the aggregate Joint Commission measure of breastfeeding exclusivity at discharge (TJC PC-05) by focusing on high-reliability (≥90%) implementation of processes that promote breastfeeding in the delivery setting.

Methods: A statewide, multidisciplinary development team reviewed evidence from the WHO-UNICEF “Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding” to create a consensus toolkit of process indicators aligned with the Ten Steps. Hospitals submitted monthly TJC PC-05 data for 6 months while studying local implementation of the Ten Steps to identify improvement opportunities, and for an additional 11 months while conducting tests of change to improve Ten Steps implementation using Plan-Do-Study-Act cycles, local process audits, and control charts. Data were aggregated at the state level and presented at 12 monthly webinars, 3 regional learning sessions, and 1 statewide meeting where teams shared their local data and implementation experiences.

Results: Thirteen hospitals accounting for 47% of live births in Tennessee submitted data on 31,183 mother–infant dyads from August 1, 2012, to December 31, 2013. Aggregate monthly mean PC-05 demonstrated “special cause” improvement increasing from 37.1% to 41.2%, an 11.1% relative increase. Five hospitals reported implementation of ≥5 of the Ten Steps and two hospitals reported ≥90% reliability on ≥5 of the Ten Steps using locally designed process audits.

Conclusion: Using large-scale improvement methodology, a successful statewide collaborative led to >10% relative increase in breastfeeding exclusivity at discharge in participating Tennessee hospitals. Further opportunities for improvement in implementing breastfeeding supportive practices were identified.