Background: Postnatal breastfeeding support in the form of home visits is difficult to accommodate in regional Australia, where hospitals often deal with harsh economic constraints in a context where they are required to provide services to geographically dispersed consumers. This study evaluated a predominantly telephone-based support service called the Infant Feeding Support Service.
Methods: A prospective cohort design was used to compare data for 696 women giving birth in two regional hospitals (one public, one private) and participating in the support service between January and July 2003 with data from a cohort of 625 women who gave birth in those hospitals before the introduction of the support service. Each mother participating in the support service was assigned a lactation consultant. First contact occurred 48 hours after discharge, and approximately weekly thereafter for 4 weeks. Breastfeeding duration was measured at 3 months postpartum.
Results: For women from the private hospital, the support service improved exclusive breastfeeding duration to 4.5 weeks postpartum, but these improvements were not evident at 3 months postpartum. No effects were observed for mothers from the public hospital. Quantitative and qualitative data demonstrated high levels of client satisfaction with the support service.
Conclusions: This small-scale, predominantly telephone-based intervention provided significant, although apparently context-sensitive, improvements to exclusive breastfeeding duration.