Government funded breastfeeding peer support projects: implications for practice

Fiona Dykes phd, ma, rm, rgn, adm, cert ed
Matern Child Nutr. 2005 Jan;1(1):21-31.


n 1999, the Government, Department of Health in England, UK established the Infant Feeding Initiative. As part of this initiative, 79 1-year infant feeding projects were selected for funding. The funded projects specifically centred upon practice innovation and evaluation in relation to promoting breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding women in socially excluded communities. The DH recently commissioned a comprehensive evaluation of the 79 projects (DH 2003). This paper focuses upon the evaluation of the 26 DH funded projects that specifically focused upon breastfeeding peer support schemes. The evaluation illuminated many of the challenges involved in implementing community based breastfeeding peer support schemes. Lessons learnt from the most effective projects in terms of: potential to increase breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates; uptake of the service; comprehensive evaluation; and sustainability are presented here, as a series of steps required for successful operationalization of breastfeeding peer support schemes. When these steps are followed, peer support schemes offer exciting prospects for supporting breastfeeding women and increasing breastfeeding initiation and continuation rates, while respecting diversity, ensuring inclusivity and stimulating community empowerment.

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