Do breast feeding mothers get the home support they need?

M. J. Houston, P. W. Howie, A. Cook, A. S. McNeilly

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Abstract

The effect of 1 pattern of additional home support for breast feeding mothers was compared with the routine care currently offered by health visitors. All patients were mothers who were breast feeding when they were discharged from the Simpson Memorial Maternity Pavilion in Edinburgh, Scotland after delivering mature and normal birth weight infants. None of the mothers were intending to use hormonal contraception. 28 mothers were recruited to the study group and 52 to the control group. Patients in the study group were visited in the postnatal ward by 1 of the 2 midwifery sisters involved in the study. All home visits were then carried out by the same sister and were additional to the routine visits by the health visitors. All mothers were visited once by the sister in the 1st week after discharge and thereafter visits were arranged fortnightly at times which were convenient to the mother. The visits were conducted on a non-directive basis, simply giving the mothers the opportunity to raise problems. Visits were made fortnightly until the cessation of breast feeding. The mothers in the control group received the normal care from the community services, but they did not have the extra visits from the midwifery sisters. 24 weeks after delivery, control mothers were interviewed at home about the progress of breast feeding. All but 2 babies were thriving. No significant differences were found between the 2 groups in regard to age, parity, or social class distribution. The number of routine home visits by health visitors as recalled by the mothers showed a wide range from 1-10 visits per patient, but the average number of 2.7 visits per patient was the same in the 2 groups. The study group received an additional 11.5 plus-minus 0.5 visits per patient during the first 24 weeks from the sisters involved in the study. In the study group, all mothers continued breast feeding until 12 weeks and 24 of 28 (86%) were still feeding at 24 weeks. Compared with the controls, the proportion of mothers breast feeding in the study group was higher throughout the 24 weeks of observation, the differences being significant at 12 weeks and 20 weeks. The effect of social class was shown by a progressive decline in continuation rates down the gradient of social class. Additional food in the form of formula milk or solids was introduced at an earlier stage in the control group. 19% of the mothers in the control gave insufficient milk or an unsettled baby as the major factors in stopping breast feeding. The remaining reasons, not related to the adequacy of the milk supply, were given by 16% of the control and 14% of the study group. It was possible to achieve a very high degree of successful breast feeding with the provision of consistent home support.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-172
Number of pages7
JournalHealth Bulletin
Volume39
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1981

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    Houston, M. J., Howie, P. W., Cook, A., & McNeilly, A. S. (1981). Do breast feeding mothers get the home support they need? Health Bulletin, 39(3), 166-172.