Effectiveness of a breastfeeding peer coaching intervention in rural Scotland

Birth. 2006 Mar;33(1):27-36. doi: 10.1111/j.0730-7659.2006.00071.x.


Background: Breastfeeding initiation in Scotland in 2000 was 63 percent, compared with over 90 percent in Norway and Sweden. Although peer support is effective in improving exclusivity of breastfeeding in countries where over 80 percent of women initiate breastfeeding, the evidence for effectiveness in countries with lower initiation is uncertain. Our primary aim was to assess whether group-based and one-to-one peer breastfeeding coaching improves breastfeeding initiation and duration.

Methods: Action research methodology was used to conduct an intervention study in 4 geographical postcode areas in rural northeast Scotland. Infant feeding outcomes at birth and hospital discharge; at 1, 2, and 6 weeks; and at 4 and 8 months were collected for 598 of 626 women with live births during a 9-month baseline period and for 557 of 592 women with live births during a 9-month intervention period. Groups met in 5 locations, with 266 groups meeting in the period when intervention women were eligible to attend. Data on place of birth and length of postnatal hospital stay were also collected. Control data from 10 other Health Board areas in Scotland were compared. An intention-to participate survey about coaching participation was completed by 206 of 345 women initiating breastfeeding. Group attendance data were collected by means of 266 group diaries.

Results: There was a significant increase in any breastfeeding of 6.8 percent from 34.3 to 41.1 percent (95% CI 1.2, 12.4) in the study population at 2 weeks after birth compared with a decline in any breastfeeding in the rest of Scotland of 0.4 percent from 44 to 43.6 percent (95% CI -1.2, 0.4). Breastfeeding rates increased compared with baseline rates at all time points until 8 months. However, the effect was not uniform across the 4 postcode areas and was not related to level of deprivation. Little difference was seen in receipt of information and knowledge about the availability of coaching among areas. All breastfeeding groups were well attended, popular, and considered helpful by participants. A minority of women (n = 14/206) participated in formal one-to-one coaching. Women who received antenatal, birth, and postnatal care from community midwife-led units were more likely to be breastfeeding at 2 weeks (p = 0.007) than women who received some or all care in district maternity units.

Conclusions: Group-based and one-to-one peer coaching for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers increased breastfeeding initiation and duration in an area with below average breastfeeding rates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Breast Feeding* / epidemiology
  • Breast Feeding* / psychology
  • Breast Feeding* / statistics & numerical data
  • Counseling / methods*
  • Counseling / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Group Processes
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Midwifery
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Social Support
  • Time Factors