Grant Application

Jessica Davis, BSN, RN, CBC, CCRN, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Proposed Innovation

Congenital heart disease affects one in 100 infants and is responsible for half of all infant deaths from two months to one year. These infants have a higher risk of comorbidities, such as necrotizing enterocolitis, malnutrition, and failure to thrive. Breast milk — identified by the American Academy of Pediatrics as the best source of nutrition for infants — reduces the risk of comorbidities in medically fragile infants.

Each year, the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (CICU) at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh admits 130 infants. However, mothers face major obstacles to breastfeeding within the unit, including limited lactation support and inadequate and uncomfortable breast pumping facilities and tools. This project aims to increase breastfeeding rates in the CICU by removing barriers through education and improved lactation support.

Improvements in Action

Nurses play an important role in establishing breastfeeding, promoting breastfeeding confidence in mothers, and preventing early weaning. Through this project, quarterly lunch and learn sessions, cardiac orientation class, and in-service meetings will be used to educate nurses about breastfeeding and its benefits. Physicians also will be offered similar education opportunities.

Funds also will be used to provide the CICU with standard breastfeeding and pumping tools, including a breast milk centrifuge and warmer, sterilization bags, and cooler bags. The CICU pumping room will be remodeled to provide a more relaxing and private environment for pumping and will be equipped with specially-sized breast shields and nursing covers to enhance patient comfort. A breastfeeding support group also will be formed to provide mothers with breastfeeding education and a forum for discussing concerns.


Providing consistent, evidence-based education will enhance staff knowledge about breastfeeding and foster a culture that encourages and supports breastfeeding of critically ill infants. In addition, creating a more supportive and comfortable environment for mothers will increase confidence and breastfeeding success.