Objective: This study evaluates the effectiveness of a peer counseling program at increasing breastfeeding by participants in the Mississippi Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
Methods: Data from the 1989-1993 Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System were analyzed to compare breastfeeding rates in clinics with and without peer counseling programs. A questionnaire completed by program staff to describe the program in greater detail helped identify characteristics associated with greater success.
Results: The incidence of breastfeeding rose from 12.3% to 19.9% in those clinics with peer counseling programs, but only from 9.2% to 10.7% in clinics without a program. Clinics that started a program earlier showed greater changes in breastfeeding incidence. However, the presence of lactation specialists or consultants in the clinic appeared to be more important than the presence of less-trained peer counselors. Peer counselors who spent more than 45 minutes per participant were more effective than those spending less time.
Conclusions: The peer counseling program significantly increased the incidence of breastfeeding, particularly in clinics with lactation specialists and consultants. Success can be enhanced by ensuring that peer counselors spend a great deal of time with the participants.