Scientists have found that peer counseling and support can substantially improve breastfeeding success among obese women.
Using a very powerful scientific method employing randomization and intervention groups, scientists from the University of Connecticut, Hartford's Hispanic Health Council, the Hartford Hospital, and Yale University, studied 154 women recruited during pregnancy.
All of the women involved in the study were overweight or obese and hoping to successfully breastfeed.
In general, the study's subjects were predominantly Puerto Rican, low-income, and had less than a high-school education. Whereas all of the participants received standard information concerning the benefits of
breastfeeding, 76 of them were randomly chosen to also receive intensive, hands-on breastfeeding support from specially trained peer counselors.
For instance, women in the 'intervention' group were visited three times in their homes during late pregnancy and 11 more times in the first few months after birth.
During these visits, the peer counselors offered helpful advice to offset immediate problems and were able to provide breast pumps to women needing them.
The researchers then documented whether there were benefits of the specialized peer counseling on breastfeeding success, infant health and - in a subset of the women - breastfeeding techniques.
As they had hoped, the researchers found that peer counseling substantially improved breastfeeding success.
Whereas 16 percent and 46 percent of the women in the 'control' group had stopped breastfeeding by 2 and 8 weeks postpartum, respectively, only 7 percent and 33 percent of the women in the 'intervention' group had stopped.
They also documented important effects of personalized breastfeeding support on infant nursing behaviors.
And to add even more bang for the buck, babies of mothers who received
the extra counseling were 3.5 times less likely to be hospitalized during their first 3 months of life. This was mostly due to lower rates of respiratory infections and fever.
The study was presented at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting in Anaheim.