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Objective To determine whether a single one-to-one in-hospital education session could increase the rate of breastfeeding at 17 weeks.

Design A prospective, randomised, parallel group, open trial.

Setting A level two maternity hospital in France.

Sample Breastfeeding mothers who were employed outside the home prenatally and were delivered of a healthy singleton.

Intervention A structured one-to-one in-hospital education session.

Methods One hundred and six mother–infant pairs were allocated to the intervention group and 104 to the control group (receiving usual verbal encouragement). A total of 93 mother–infant pairs in the intervention group and 97 in the control group provided complete data for final evaluation of efficacy.

Main outcome measure Rate of breastfeeding at infant age of 17 weeks.

Results There was no significant difference between the two groups in the rate of any breastfeeding (34.4% in the intervention group vs 40.2% in the control group, relative risk = 0.86 [0.52–1.40]), and in the rate of exclusive breastfeeding (14.0% in the intervention group vs 14.4% in the control group, relative risk = 0.97 [0.42–2.22]).

Conclusion Our findings suggest that a single in-hospital educational intervention has no effect on the breastfeeding rate at four months. Guidance provided by maternity staff should be reinforced by a long term multifaceted support programme in countries with a low to intermediate rate of breastfeeding.