In 2012, Finish researchers published a study in the Journal of Clinical Nursing reviewing past studies that had “focused on breastfeeding, breastfeeding support interventions, and education of healthy mothers and infants”.
The researchers combed through 34 studies published between 2000 and 2008 that were focused in Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. At the time they began the study, the researchers pointed out that peer breastfeeding support was rising in popularity, particularly in the UK. Even so, very little research had been done up to that point on peer support, its cost effectiveness, and its impact on breastfeeding rates.
Researchers outlined 4 elements that are necessary for peer support interventions to be effective:
1. Well-planned peer education
Mothers were generally dissatisfied with the support of their peers if they had received no training.
2. Continuance of support from pregnancy to the postpartum period
If new mothers receive no support during pregnancy or at the hospital, any postnatal support would likely be ineffective.
3. Working together with professionals
Professional support is critical while the mother is at the hospital and if she experiences serious difficulties while breastfeeding. On the other hand, peer support can better offer advice related to breastfeeding and everyday life.
4. Variety of means to give support
This includes such things as individual support, support groups, educational classes at the hospital, hospital-based breastfeeding drop-in centres, pictures, and breast pump loans.
The most important requirement for ensuring a successful breastfeeding experience is that the mother feels supported and empowered. Because support must happen over a period of several months, having a variety of trained support persons is integral. It’s unreasonable to expect that a friend, mother, or even a doctor will be able to provide continual support for such a long period. Having a team—no matter how loosely based—can help spread out the burden of supporting a struggling mother. In addition, hiring a lactation consultant can be an ideal combination of peer and professional support.
Lactation consultants are educated and trained; they are available for prenatal, natal, and postnatal support in a comfortable and approachable manner; they work with professionals, and they have access to a variety of support methods.
Contact me if you’d like to know how I can provide the best support you can receive.