Interventions in primary care to promote breastfeeding: an evidence review for the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force

Ann Intern Med. 2008 Oct 21;149(8):565-82. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-149-8-200810210-00009.


Background: Evidence suggests that breastfeeding decreases the risk for many diseases in mothers and infants. It is therefore important to evaluate the effectiveness of breastfeeding interventions.

Purpose: To systematically review evidence for the effectiveness of primary care-initiated interventions to promote breastfeeding with respect to breastfeeding and child and maternal health outcomes.

Data sources: Electronic searches of MEDLINE, the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials, and CINAHL from September 2001 to February 2008 and references of selected articles, restricted to English-language publications.

Study selection: Randomized, controlled trials of primary care-initiated interventions to promote breastfeeding, mainly in developed countries.

Data extraction: Characteristics of interventions and comparators, study setting, study design, population characteristics, the proportion of infants continuing breastfeeding by different durations, and infant or maternal health outcomes were recorded.

Data synthesis: Thirty-eight randomized, controlled trials (36 in developed countries) met eligibility criteria. In random-effects meta-analyses, breastfeeding promotion interventions in developed countries resulted in significantly increased rates of short- (1 to 3 months) and long-term (6 to 8 months) exclusive breastfeeding (rate ratios, 1.28 [95% CI, 1.11 to 1.48] and 1.44 [CI, 1.13 to 1.84], respectively). In subgroup analyses, combining pre- and postnatal breastfeeding interventions had a larger effect on increasing breastfeeding durations than either pre- or postnatal interventions alone. Furthermore, breastfeeding interventions with a component of lay support (such as peer support or peer counseling) were more effective than usual care in increasing the short-term breastfeeding rate.

Limitations: Meta-analyses were limited by clinical and methodological heterogeneity. Reliable estimates for the isolated effects of each component of multicomponent interventions could not be obtained.

Conclusion: Evidence suggests that breastfeeding interventions are more effective than usual care in increasing short- and long-term breastfeeding rates. Combined pre- and postnatal interventions and inclusion of lay support in a multicomponent intervention may be beneficial.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Behavior Therapy
  • Breast Feeding*
  • Counseling*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Health Promotion
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Newborn, Diseases / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary Health Care / methods*
  • Time Factors