Objective: To assess the impact that a mother-to-mother support program operated by La Leche League Guatemala had on early initiation of breast-feeding and on exclusive breast-feeding in peri-urban Guatemala City, Guatemala.
Materials and methods: A population census was conducted to identify all mothers of infants < 6 months of age, and the mothers were then surveyed on their breast-feeding practices, in two program communities and two control communities. Data collection for this follow-up census and survey was carried out between November 2000 and January 2001, one year after a baseline census and survey had been conducted.
Results: At follow-up, 31% of mothers in the program communities indicated that counselors had advised them about breast-feeding, 21% said they had received a home visit, and 16% reported attending a support group. Community wide rates of early initiation of breast-feeding were significantly higher in program areas than in the control communities, at both baseline and follow-up. However, the change over time in early initiation in program communities was not significantly different from the change in control communities. Community wide rates of exclusive breast-feeding were similar in program and control sites and did not change significantly from baseline to follow-up. However, of the mothers in the program communities who both received home visits and attended support groups, 45% of them exclusively breast-fed, compared to 14% of women in program communities who did not participate in those two activities. In addition, women who were exposed to mother-to-mother support activities during the year following the baseline census and survey were more likely than mothers exposed before that period to exclusively breast-feed. This suggests that the program interventions became more effective over time.
Conclusions: This study does not provide evidence of population impact of La Leche League's intervention after one year of implementation. In peri-urban Guatemala, long-term community-based interventions, in partnership with existing health care systems, may be needed to improve community wide exclusive breast-feeding rates.