Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Breast Feeding; Cluster Analysis; Community Health Services; Female; Health Promotion; Humans; Mothers (psychology); Peer Group; Pregnancy; Prenatal Care (methods); Regression Analysis; Social Support; Treatment Outcome


OBJECTIVE: To assess the effectiveness of an antenatal service using community based breastfeeding peer support workers on initiation of breast feeding. DESIGN: Cluster randomised controlled trial. SETTING: Community antenatal clinics in one primary care trust in a multiethnic, deprived population. PARTICIPANTS: 66 antenatal clinics with 2511 pregnant women: 33 clinics including 1140 women were randomised to receive the peer support worker service and 33 clinics including 1371 women were randomised to receive standard care. INTERVENTION: An antenatal peer support worker service planned to comprise a minimum of two contacts with women to provide advice, information, and support from approximately 24 weeks' gestation within the antenatal clinic or at home. The trained peer support workers were of similar ethnic and sociodemographic backgrounds to their clinic population. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Initiation of breast feeding obtained from computerised maternity records of the hospitals where women from the primary care trust delivered. RESULTS: The sample was multiethnic, with only 9.4% of women being white British, and 70% were in the lowest 10th for deprivation. Most of the contacts with peer support workers took place in the antenatal clinics. Data on initiation of breast feeding were obtained for 2398 of 2511 (95.5%) women (1083/1140 intervention and 1315/1371 controls). The groups did not differ for initiation of breast feeding: 69.0% (747/1083) in the intervention group and 68.1% (896/1315) in the control groups; cluster adjusted odds ratio 1.11 (95% confidence interval 0.87 to 1.43). Ethnicity, parity, and mode of delivery independently predicted initiation of breast feeding, but randomisation to the peer support worker service did not. CONCLUSION: A universal service for initiation of breast feeding using peer support workers provided within antenatal clinics serving a multiethnic, deprived population was ineffective in increasing initiation rates. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN16126175.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© 2022 BMJ Publishing Group Ltd

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

APA Citation

MacArthur, C., Jolly, K., Ingram, L., Freemantle, N., Dennis, C., & Hamburger, R. et al. (2009). Antenatal peer support workers and initiation of breast feeding: cluster randomised controlled trial. BMJ, 338, b131-b131.