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Breastfeeding Peer Support Part 1

September 2020

“Breastfeeding peer support has been identified as a key intervention to help improve breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding rates.  The World Health Organization, and in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, recommend the implementation of sustainable peer support programmes.” (1).

 girls-talking

Currently, the limited number of qualitative studies on breastfeeding peer support demonstrate that women value peer support. The 2012 research by Thomson, Crossland, and Dykes (1) follow the Star Buddies over a two-year period to determine the effectiveness of the program. Star Buddies services were established to provide one full-time/whole-time to every 250 birthing women in northwest England, following approximately 1600 births. The study found several vital aspects with the provisions of the Star Buddies:

  • A powerful influence in molding individual strategies for goal attainment.
  • Realistic and relatable information provided.
  • Identification of and remedy for actions that could negatively impact breastfeeding.
  • Frequent and regular contact initiated by the Star Buddies who often extended their availability on a voluntary basis.
  • Access and mobilization of additional external community resources.
  • Encouragement for social interactions provided by breastfeeding support groups, which were frequently attended by Star Buddies.
  • Referrals to appropriate healthcare providers as needed.
  • Reaffirmation of the women’s expectations of infant feeding through the reiteration of the health benefits for both infant and mother.

Star Buddies is only one of many types of peer support groups around the globe. Here are just a few of those: La Leche League, Australian Breastfeeding Association, hospital/clinic-based support groups, and governmental supported groups such as Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in the US. We will continue to look at just a few of these resources in the coming posts.

Stay safe and thank you for supporting, promoting, and protecting breastfeeding!

 

Kathy Parkes, MSN-Ed, RN, IBCLC, FILCA CHC

Professional Development Educator
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References:

1. Thomson, G, Crossland, N., and Dykes, F.  (2012).  Giving me hope: Women’s reflections on a breastfeeding peer support service.  Maternal and Child Nutrition; 8: 340-353.

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Last Updated: September 2018