Interventions promoting exclusive breastfeeding up to six months after birth: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

Int J Nurs Stud. 2018 Apr:80:94-105. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.01.004. Epub 2018 Jan 12.


Background: The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that mothers practice exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) of their infants for 6 months. Various breastfeeding support interventions have been developed to encourage mothers to maintain breastfeeding practices. Research aim: This study aims to review how effectively breastfeeding support interventions enable mothers to practice EBF for 6 months and to suggest the best intervention strategies.

Methods: Six databases were searched, including MEDLINE, EMBASE, Cochrane, CINAHL, PsycINFO, and KoreaMed. The authors independently extracted data from journals written in English or Korean and published between January 2000 and August 2017. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) reporting EBF until 6 months were screened.

Results: A total of 27 RCTs were reviewed, and 36,051 mothers were included. The effectiveness of breastfeeding support interventions to promote EBF for 6 months was significant (odds ratio [OR] = 2.77; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.81-3.76). A further subgroup analysis of intervention effects shows that a baby friendly hospital initiative (BFHI) intervention (OR = 5.21; 95% CI: 2.15-12.61), a combined intervention (OR = 3.56; 95% CI: 1.74-7.26), a professional provider led intervention (OR = 2.76; 95% CI: 1.76-4.33), having a protocol available for the provider training program (OR = 2.87; 95% CI: 1.89-4.37) and implementation during both the prenatal and postnatal periods (OR = 3.32; 95% CI: 1.83-6.03) increased the rate of EBF for 6 months.

Conclusion: We suggest considering a multicomponent intervention as the primary strategy and implementing BFHI interventions within hospitals. Evidence indicates that intervention effectiveness increases when a protocol is available for provider training, when interventions are conducted from the pre- to postnatal period, when the hospital and community are connected, and when healthcare professionals are involved.

Keywords: Exclusive breastfeeding; Intervention; Lactation; Meta-analysis; Postnatal; Prenatal; Systematic review.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lactation
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic