Purpose: Adolescent mothers breastfeed less often and for a shorter duration than adult mothers. This randomized controlled trial was designed to evaluate the effect of telephone peer support on breastfeeding duration among adolescents.
Methods: Five adolescents who had previously breastfed were trained to provide peer support. Seventy-eight breastfeeding mothers were randomly assigned to an intervention group that received telephone calls from the peer support persons (n = 38) or to a control group that did not receive support (n = 40). An independent interviewer telephoned all new mothers weekly to document feeding patterns. Peer support persons, subjects, and the interviewer were all blinded to the research hypothesis and to group assignment. The primary outcome variable was "any breastfeeding" duration, i.e., the age at complete breastfeeding cessation. A secondary outcome variable was exclusive breastfeeding, i.e., the age at first introduction of any supplement.
Results: "Any breastfeeding" duration did not differ significantly between the groups (median 75 days in the intervention group vs. 35 days in the control group, p = 0.26). Among the 13 intervention and 11 control mothers who were exclusively breastfeeding at the time of hospital discharge, the duration of exclusive breastfeeding was increased in the intervention group (median 35 days vs. 10 days, p = 0.004).
Conclusions: This study did not demonstrate a significant effect of peer support on "any breastfeeding" duration. In contrast, exclusive breastfeeding duration appeared to be extended by peer support. This latter finding would benefit from confirmation in future studies. However, unless better methods are developed for retaining peers, this is likely to be a labor-intensive approach to extending exclusive breastfeeding duration among adolescent mothers.