To assess the feasibility, acceptability and fidelity of a feeding team intervention with an embedded randomised controlled trial of team-initiated (proactive) and woman-initiated (reactive) telephone support after hospital discharge.
Participatory approach to the design and implementation of a pilot trial embedded within a before-and-after study, with mixed-method process evaluation.
A postnatal ward in Scotland.
Women initiating breast feeding and living in disadvantaged areas.
Quantitative data: telephone call log and workload diaries. Qualitative data: interviews with women (n=40) with follow-up (n=11) and staff (n=17); ward observations 2 weeks before and after the intervention; recorded telephone calls (n=16) and steering group meetings (n=9); trial case notes (n=69); open question in a telephone interview (n=372). The Framework approach to analysis was applied to mixed-method data.
Main outcome measures
Quantitative: telephone call characteristics (number, frequency, duration); workload activity. Qualitative: experiences and perspectives of women and staff.
A median of eight proactive calls per woman (n=35) with a median duration of 5 min occurred in the 14 days following hospital discharge. Only one of 34 control women initiated a call to the feeding team, with women undervaluing their own needs compared to others, and breast feeding as a reason to call. Proactive calls providing continuity of care increased women's confidence and were highly valued. Data demonstrated intervention fidelity for woman-centred care; however, observing an entire breast feed was not well implemented due to short hospital stays, ward routines and staff–team–woman communication issues. Staff pragmatically recognised that dedicated feeding teams help meet women's breastfeeding support needs in the context of overstretched and variable postnatal services.
Implementing and integrating the FEeding Support Team (FEST) trial within routine postnatal care was feasible and acceptable to women and staff from a research and practice perspective and shows promise for addressing health inequalities.
ISRCTN27207603. The study protocol and final report is available on request.
To use a participatory approach to design, deliver and implement a feeding support team intervention integrated into routine postnatal ward care and to deliver a pilot randomised controlled trial (RCT) of proactive and reactive telephone support for breast feeding for up to 14 days after hospital discharge for women living in more disadvantaged areas.
To use a mixed qualitative and quantitative methods process evaluation to assess the study acceptability, feasibility and intervention fidelity from the perspectives of women and National Health Service staff.
To inform the design of a future definitive RCT.
Women living in disadvantaged areas are unlikely to initiate calls for help with breast feeding and proactive telephone calls may help to counteract the inverse care law.
Women undervalue both breast feeding and their own needs compared with the needs of others as a reason to ask for help in the context of overstretched maternity services.
A caring, reassuring woman-centred communication style with continuity of care from hospital to home was valued and increased women's confidence.
Strengths and limitations of this study
The participatory approach embedding a rigorous RCT within a before-and-after cohort study with mixed-methods data to evaluate implementation processes and costs are strengths that will enable us to design a feasible and acceptable definitive trial.
The contribution of the personal characteristics and skills of the feeding team to the intervention was important and may be challenging to replicate.
The low number of women who reported having an entire breast feed observed is a limitation and warrants further investigation.
More research is required before feeding teams and proactive calls are widely implemented as there are likely to be unintended consequences to such an organisational change in postnatal care.