Organised support helps women keep breastfeeding

More support could help women keep breastfeeding for longer, according to a large international review

Researchers looked at 73 studies with a total of almost 75,000 women and found that all types of organised support could help keep women breastfeeding—either with or without other food or liquids.

Predictable, scheduled visits with healthcare professionals or trained volunteers were most helpful, and the best kinds of support might depend on a group’s location and their needs, say the review’s authors.

They highlight the fact that many mothers may stop breastfeeding before they want to as a result of the problems they encounter.

This review now includes 100 randomised controlled studies involving more than 83,246 women. The 73 trials that contributed to the analyses were from 29 countries and involved 74,656 women.

Some 62% of the women were from high-income countries, 34% from middle-income countries and 4% from low-income countries.

All forms of extra organised support analysed together showed an increase in the length of time women continued to breastfeed, either with or without introducing any other types of liquids or foods, the authors wrote.

This meant that fewer women stopped any breastfeeding or exclusively breastfeeding (moderate quality evidence) before four to six weeks and before six months. Both trained volunteers and doctors and nurses had a positive impact on breastfeeding.

New studies of different kinds of support for exclusive breastfeeding may change our understanding of how to help women to continue with exclusive breastfeeding, they say, pointing out that evidence was of moderate quality, not high.

“Characteristics of effective support include: that it is offered as standard by trained personnel during antenatal or postnatal care, that it includes ongoing scheduled visits so that women can predict when support will be available, and that it is tailored to the setting and the needs of the population group,” they write.

“Support is likely to be more effective in settings with high initiation rates. Support may be offered either by professional or lay/peer supporters, or a combination of both.

“Strategies that rely mainly on face-to-face support are more likely to succeed with women practising exclusive breastfeeding.”

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