To assess the feasibility of implementing a dedicated feeding support team on a postnatal ward and pilot the potential effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of team (proactive) and woman-initiated (reactive) telephone support after discharge.
Randomised controlled trial embedded within a before-and-after study. Participatory approach and mixed-method process evaluation.
A postnatal ward in Scotland.
Women living in disadvantaged areas initiating breast feeding.
Eligible women were recruited to a before-and-after intervention study, a proportion of whom were independently randomised after hospital discharge to intervention: daily proactive and reactive telephone calls for ≤14 days or control: reactive telephone calls ≤ day 14. Intention-to-treat analysis compared the randomised groups on cases with complete outcomes at follow-up.
Main outcome measures
Primary outcome: any breast feeding at 6–8 weeks assessed by a telephone call from a researcher blind to group allocation. Secondary outcomes: exclusive breast feeding, satisfaction with care, NHS costs and cost per additional woman breast feeding.
There was no difference in feeding outcomes for women initiating breast feeding before the intervention (n=413) and after (n=388). 69 women were randomised to telephone support: 35 intervention (32 complete cases) and 34 control (26 complete cases). 22 intervention women compared with 12 control women were giving their baby some breast milk (RR 1.49, 95% CI 0.92 to 2.40) and 17 intervention women compared with eight control women were exclusively breast feeding (RR 1.73, 95% CI 0.88 to 3.37) at 6–8 weeks after birth. The incremental cost of providing proactive calls was £87 per additional woman breast feeding and £91 per additional woman exclusively breast feeding at 6–8 weeks; costs were sensitive to service organisation.
Proactive telephone care delivered by a dedicated feeding team shows promise as a cost-effective intervention for improving breastfeeding outcomes. Integrating the FEeding Support Team (FEST) intervention into routine postnatal care was feasible.
Trial registration number
ISRCTN27207603. The study protocol and final report are available on request.
To pilot the potential effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of continuing proactive and reactive telephone support for breast feeding for up to 14 days after hospital discharge for women living in more disadvantaged areas.
To assess the feasibility of implementing a dedicated feeding team on a postnatal ward.
To design an effective health service intervention for infant feeding by re-organising how routine care is provided to inform a larger programme of research.
Proactive telephone care delivered by a dedicated feeding team shows promise for increasing breastfeeding rates 6–8 weeks after birth.
Only having a dedicated feeding team on a postnatal ward did not appear to make any difference to feeding outcomes at 6–8 weeks after birth.
We have demonstrated the feasibility of (1) implementing the FEeding Support Team intervention as part of routine postnatal care and (2) the recruitment and data collection processes for a proposed definitive trial.
Strengths and limitations of this study
Using a participatory approach and embedding a rigorous randomised control trial within a before-and-after cohort study with mixed methods data to evaluate costs are strengths that will enable us to design a definitive trial.
It is likely that the effect sizes are overestimated as the sample size was small and no sample size calculation was performed prior to the study.
Our sample included women requiring longer hospital stays due to birth complications.
The reactive call service was only free to those who had the same mobile phone network provider.
The incremental cost-effectiveness ratios presented represent the most favourable set of assumptions for proactive telephone support and are sensitive to how the service is organised.