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Breastfeeding for the Long Haul

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Jan. 10, 2002 -- Lots of women plan to breastfeed their babies. They know that mother's milk provides the very best nutrition for their precious infant. But while they start out with the best of intentions, many new moms quit in frustration after just a few weeks. A new study shows that help may be just a phone call away. Researchers showed that ongoing peer support can significantly prolong breastfeeding duration.

Cindy-Lee Dennis, PhD, and colleagues at the University of Toronto, Ontario, randomly assigned more than 250 nursing new moms to receive either standard care alone, or with telephone-based support beginning within 48 hours of leaving the hospital. Peer support came from ordinary women with breastfeeding experience who'd undergone a two-and-a-half hour training session.

The researchers then contacted each woman at four, eight, and 12 weeks after giving birth and asked about their experience with breastfeeding and the support they'd received.

The findings appear in the Jan. 8 issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

"The telephone-based peer support intervention was effective in maintaining breast-feeding to three months [after birth] and improving satisfaction with the infant feeding experience," the researchers write. "The high satisfaction with and acceptance of the intervention indicates that breast-feeding peer support programs, in conjunction with professional health services, are effective."

In an editorial accompanying the report, Ruth A Lawrence, MD, professor of pediatrics and of obstetrics and gynecology, at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, writes that this study "carefully supplies the needed evidence that indeed peer support does make a difference in the long-term outcome of breast-feeding."

"Breast feeding is important," writes Lawrence. Given the wealth of data now showing that breastfed babies fare better overall than their bottle-fed counterparts, "it is essential that this work ... continues."

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