By Diana Swift
Peers are preferable to professionals for supporting new moms in breastfeeding. Although the proportion of new mothers breastfeeding their babies grew from 25% in the 1960s to at least 83% today, most mothers stop before the recommended six-month period—even with follow-up help from healthcare professionals. Now a University of Toronto study has found that having the benefit of mother-to-mother support is better than professional care alone for extending the time a mother nurses and her satisfaction with the infant-feeding experience.
Led by Dr. Cindy-Lee Dennis of the nursing faculty, researchers recruited 256 first-time nursing mothers from two community hospitals near Toronto. Half were assigned to conventional care (in-hospital breastfeeding support and post-discharge public-health nursing services) and half to conventional care, plus telephone support from a female volunteer experienced in breastfeeding. This backup began within 48 hours of the mom’s discharge from hospital. At three months’ follow-up, 81% of moms receiving peer support were still nursing, versus 67% of their standard-care counterparts—and more were doing so exclusively (57% versus 40%). And when asked to rate the overall quality of their experience in feeding their babies, less than 2% of moms in the experimental arm were dissatisfied, versus more than 10% of those in the conventional arm. The mother-to-mother telephone support also appeared to combat postpartum depression, a relationship that Dennis will soon examine in a new study.