Addressing Disparities in Mother's Milk for VLBW Infants Through Statewide Quality Improvement

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Article, Peer-reviewed

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Among very low birth weight infants born from January 2015 to December 2017, the Massachusetts statewide quality improvement collaborative aimed to increase provision of (1) any mother's milk at discharge or transfer from a baseline of 63% to ≥75%, (2) exclusive mother's milk at discharge or transfer from a baseline of 45% to ≥55%, and (3) to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in provision of mother's milk.


We used the Institute for Healthcare Improvement Breakthrough Series framework in which our main process measures were receipt of prenatal education regarding human milk education, first milk expression within 6 hours after birth, and any skin-to-skin care on 4 weekly audit days in the first month. We examined changes over time among all very low birth weight infants and for 3 racial and ethnic subgroups (non-Hispanic white, non-Hispanic black, and Hispanic) using control and run charts, respectively.


Of 1670 infants eligible to receive mother's milk at 9 hospitals, 43% of their mothers were non-Hispanic white, 19% were non-Hispanic black, 19% were Hispanic, 11% were of other races or ethnicities, and 7% were unknown. Hospital teams conducted 69 interventions. We found improvement in all 3 process measures but not for our main outcomes. Improvements in process measures were similar among racial and ethnic subgroups. Hospitals varied substantially in the rate of any mother's milk at discharge or transfer according to race and ethnicity.


Our collaborative achieved similar improvements in process measures focused within the first month of hospitalization among all racial and ethnic subgroups. Reduction in racial and ethnic disparities in mother's milk at discharge was not reached. Future efforts will focus on factors that occur later in the hospitalization.