Breastfeeding peer supporters and a community support group: evaluating their effectiveness

Jenny Ingram bsc phd, Jilly Rosser med rm and Dawn Jackson bsc msc rm
Matern Child Nutr. 2005 Apr;1(2):111-8.


Peer support for breastfeeding mothers has often been promoted as a way of increasing rates in communities with low breastfeeding prevalence, where there are few breastfeeding role models and a bottle-feeding culture predominates. This study evaluated the effectiveness of a peer support initiative, which trained peer supporters who then set up a support group, in an area of social and economic deprivation in South Bristol, UK. The effects of training on 6 local women were explored; the combined effect of peer support and the group on breastfeeding prevalence assessed; and mothers’ views on what they had gained from the breastfeeding support group reported. Focus groups were held with the peer supporters, who also completed questionnaires before and after their training. Questionnaires were sent to all mothers (35) who attended the support group over the first 5 months to ascertain their views. Breastfeeding rates were extracted from routinely collected sources for both the local area and the wider Bristol population (excluding the peer support area). The initial training increased the peer supporters’ knowledge about breastfeeding and their confidence in talking to and supporting mothers. The number of mothers attending the breastfeeding support group increased from 3 per week in May to 10 per week by September 2001. Mothers who attended the group particularly appreciated being able to talk about breastfeeding and getting consistent breastfeeding advice. Breastfeeding rates in the area for 12-months before and after the start of the peer support initiative showed a significant increase at 8 weeks (7%), which was higher than the overall increase in the wider Bristol area (3%). This evaluation suggests that peer supporters combined with a breastfeeding support group are an effective way of increasing breastfeeding prevalence in areas of low continuation.

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