Breastfeeding peer support: maternal and volunteer perceptions from a randomized controlled trial

Birth. 2002 Sep;29(3):169-76. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-536x.2002.00184.x.


Background: Several studies have demonstrated the positive effects of peer support on various breastfeeding outcomes, but no study has assessed women's and peer volunteers' views on, or the nature and intensity of, the supportive intervention. The objective of this study was to describe maternal and peer volunteer perceptions of their experience while participating in a breastfeeding peer support trial.

Methods: A randomized controlled trial was conducted to evaluate the effect of telephone-based peer (mother-to-mother) support on breastfeeding duration. Two hundred and fifty-six primiparous breastfeeding women were randomly allocated to receive either conventional care or conventional care plus peer support. Three primary outcome measures were peer volunteer activity logs, maternal perceptions of peer support, and evaluations of the peer volunteer experience.

Results: Questionnaires were completed by 98.5 percent (n=130) of the mothers in the peer support group. Mothers reported their peer volunteers were available when difficulties were experienced, increased their confidence, decreased their concerns, and assisted them in reaching their breastfeeding goals. These supportive interactions resulted in 81.5 percent of mothers (n=106) being satisfied with their peer support experience and suggesting that every new mother should be offered this intervention. Similarly, all the peer volunteers interviewed (n=30) viewed their experience positively. They suggested some intervention modifications as follows: ensure that mothers enrolled in the program want peer support; provide peer volunteers with ongoing educational sessions and opportunities to "socialize" with other volunteers; and disseminate the results of peer support efforts.

Conclusions: Both mothers and peer volunteers perceived their intervention experiences positively. Whereas maternal satisfaction was related to the number and duration of peer volunteer contacts, peer volunteers enjoyed their training session and the opportunity to assist mothers for a variety of reasons. Specific intervention modifications should be implemented to enhance peer volunteer satisfaction and retention.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers*
  • Ontario
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Parity
  • Peer Group*
  • Perception*
  • Pregnancy
  • Social Support*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Telephone
  • Volunteers