Awareness of the important role of breast feeding in child health and the reproductive cycle, which is well documented elsewhere, necessitates an examination of the changing practice of breast feeding. This paper reviews these changing practices both in Western and developing societies, examines the problems which lead to lactation failure, and looks at factors related to success in breast feeding. In the light of the need for practical help for successful breast feeding. the present system of support both in hospital and at home is then discussed. An alternative system of structured home support for post-natal women, which has been shown to increase the success rate of breast feeding, is outlined. The way in which this system acts is discussed and the implications for both mothers and health staff are considered.