Policies and guidelines have recommended that structured programmes to support breastfeeding should be introduced. The objective of this review was to consider the evidence of outcomes of structured compared with non-structured breastfeeding programmes in acute maternity care settings to support initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Quantitative and qualitative studies were considered. Primary outcomes of interest were initiation of breastfeeding and duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Studies that only considered community-based interventions were excluded. An extensive search of literature published in 1992-2010 was undertaken using identified key words and index terms. Methodological quality was assessed using checklists developed by the Joanna Briggs Institute. Two independent reviewers conducted critical appraisal and data extraction; 26 articles were included. Because of clinical and methodological heterogeneity of study designs, it was not possible to combine studies or individual outcomes in meta-analyses. Most studies found a statistically significant improvement in breastfeeding initiation following introduction of a structured breastfeeding programme, although effect sizes varied. The impact on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding and duration of any breastfeeding to 6 months was also evident, although not all studies found statistically significant differences. Despite poor overall study quality, structured programmes compared with standard care positively influence the initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding and any breastfeeding. In health care settings with low breastfeeding initiation and duration rates, structured programmes may have a greater benefit. Few studies controlled for any potential confounding factors, and the impact of bias has to be considered.
© 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.