Objectives: The objectives of this systematic review were first, to describe how breastfeeding is professionally supported during pregnancy, at maternity hospitals and during the postnatal period. Secondly, to find out how effective interventions are in supporting breastfeeding.
Background: Breastfeeding is an effective way to promote the health of infants. In many countries, the rates for breastfeeding remain lower than recommended. Many studies have examined breastfeeding promotion interventions; some of them are successful and some fail. It is important to find effective combinations of support.
Design: Systematic review.
Methods: Search of CINAHL, Medline and Cochrane Central Register databases were conducted for data collection. The search was limited to articles published in Finnish, Swedish and English between the year 2000 and March 2006, focusing on breastfeeding and breastfeeding support interventions. Two reviewers independently analysed 36 articles in the final analysis.
Results: Interventions expanding from pregnancy to the intrapartum period and throughout the postnatal period were more effective than interventions concentrating on a shorter period. In addition, intervention packages using various methods of education and support from well-trained professionals are more effective than interventions concentrating on a single method.
Conclusions: During pregnancy, the effective interventions were interactive, involving mothers in conversation. The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) as well as practical hands off -teaching, when combined with support and encouragement, were effective approaches. Postnatally effective were home visits, telephone support and breastfeeding centres combined with peer support. Relevance to clinical practice. Professionals need breastfeeding education and support of their organisations to act as breastfeeding supporters. The BFHI -programme is effective and it would be wise to include the core components of the programme in breastfeeding promotion interventions. Mothers benefit from breastfeeding encouragement and guidance that supports their self-efficacy and feelings of being capable and empowered, and is tailored to their individual needs.