• breastfeeding peer counselors;
  • neonatal intensive care unit;
  • diffusion of innovations;
  • framework analysis


In this qualitative descriptive study we examined the perceptions of 17 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) healthcare providers (nurses, neonatologists, lactation consultants, and dietitians) about the role of breastfeeding peer counselors who were mothers of former NICU infants and who provided primary lactation care in the NICU. Findings revealed that the healthcare providers respected the peer counselors' lactation expertise and identified three critical elements that contributed to the effectiveness of the peer counseling program: having a champion for the program, counselors being mothers of former NICU infants, and a NICU culture supportive of using human milk. Healthcare providers thought the peer counselors enhanced care of the infant by empowering mothers to provide milk and by facilitating and modeling positive patterns of maternal–infant interactions. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Res Nurs Health 35:460–474, 2012