• Breastfeeding support;
  • epidemiology;
  • randomized clinical trial

Aim: We conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a support intervention delivered by health professionals to increase the rate and duration of breastfeeding. Methods: A randomized controlled intervention study was conducted in the period 2000–2001 among 605 mothers who had given birth in a public maternity ward located in the city of Rome, Italy. The intervention consisted of a home visit by a midwife from the maternity ward of the hospital. The outcome of the study was the infant's feeding habits, assessed by a 24-h recall. The effect of the intervention on the duration of breastfeeding was estimated by the Kaplan-Meier method and by the Cox multivariate regression model. Results: According to intention-to-treat analysis, there was no significant difference between the intervention and the control group, after controlling for confounding factors (hazard ratio (HR) 1.04; 95% confidence interval (95% CI): 0.85–1.26). The duration of breastfeeding was shorter (HR 1.61; 95% CI: 1.13–2.31) for women in the intervention group who refused the obstetric visit.

Conclusion: Our study shows that an early home support programme delivered by health professionals was not effective in increasing breastfeeding initiation and duration.