An updated review of the evidence regarding support for breastfeeding mothers has been carried out with the aim of assessing the effectiveness of the varied methods of support provision.

The researchers searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group’s Trials Register (3 October 2011) for randomised or quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing extra support for healthy breastfeeding mothers of healthy term babies with usual maternity care. Of the 67 studies assessed as eligible for inclusion, 52 studies from 21 countries contributed outcome data to the review (56,451 mother-infant pairs).

All forms of extra support analysed together showed an increase in duration of exclusive and partial breastfeeding, and reduced cessation of any breastfeeding before six. All forms of extra support together also had a positive effect on the duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Extra support by both lay and professionals had a positive impact on breastfeeding outcomes.

The authors conclude that all women should be offered support to breastfeed their babies to increase the duration and exclusivity of breastfeeding. They make the following suggestions:

  • That support is likely to be more effective in settings with high initiation rates, so efforts to increase the uptake of breastfeeding should be in place.
  • Support may be offered either by professional or lay/peer supporters, or a combination of both.
  • Strategies that rely mainly on face-to-face support are more likely to succeed.
  • Support that is only offered reactively, in which women are expected to initiate the contact, is unlikely to be effective; women should be offered ongoing visits on a scheduled basis so they can predict that support will be available.
  • Support should be tailored to the needs of the setting and the population group.

Renfrew MJ, McCormick FM, Wade A et al (2012). Support for healthy breastfeeding mothers with healthy term babies (Review). The Cochrane Collaboration. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.