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Keywords:

  • Breastfeeding;
  • Preventive health services;
  • Postnatal care;
  • Psychosocial factors;
  • Randomized controlled trial

Abstract

Aim: To assess the impact of a supportive intervention on the duration of breastfeeding.

Design and setting: A community based cluster-randomized trial in Western Denmark.

Subjects: Fifty-two health visitors and 781 mothers in the intervention group, and 57 health visitors and 816 mothers in the comparison group.

Intervention: Health visitors in the intervention group received an 18-h course. The intervention addressed maternal psychosocial factors and consisted of 1–3 home visits during the first 5 weeks post-partum. Health visitors in the comparison group offered their usual practice.

Main outcome measure: Duration of exclusive breastfeeding during 6 months of follow-up.

Results: Mothers in the intervention group had a 14% lower cessation rate (HR = 0.86 CI: 0.75–0.99). Similar results were seen for primipara, and multipara with previously short breastfeeding experience. Mothers in the intervention group received their first home visit earlier, had more visits and practical breastfeeding training within the first 5 weeks. Babies in the intervention group were breastfed more frequently, fewer used pacifiers, and their mothers reported more confidence in not knowing the exact amount of milk their babies had received when being breastfed.

Conclusion: Home visits in the first 5 weeks following birth may prolong the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Postnatal support should focus on both psychosocial and practical aspects of breastfeeding. Mothers with no or little previous breastfeeding experience require special attention.