A scoping review of breastfeeding peer support models applied in hospital settings

Chepkirui D, Nzinga J, Jemutai J, Tsofa B, Jones C, Mwangome M
Int Breastfeed J. 2020;15

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BACKGROUND: The 2013 updated guidelines on management of severe acute malnutrition in infants and children recommends the support of exclusive breastfeeding. These guidelines are inconsistently applied in low and middle income countries (LMICs) due to barriers including unclear implementation guides, technical support and epidemiological factors. Peer support strategies have been used to offer psychological support to families with infants in NICU and improve mental health outcomes. Breastfeeding peer supporters (BFPS) have been shown to be effective in improving breastfeeding outcomes in community settings however, their success within hospital settings in LMICs is unknown. We conducted a scoping review to explore implementation of breastfeeding peer support strategies as have been applied to hospitalized infants globally and highlight their implementation strategies in order to guide future research and practice. METHODS: A scoping review of the literature was conducted using the Arksey and O'Malley framework. A search was conducted in five online databases (PubMed, Cochrane library, Hinari, Google Scholar and Open Grey library). Data were extracted and charted in data extraction tables to capture general characteristics, modes of peer support delivery, implementation details and evaluation procedures. RESULTS: From the online search 276 articles were identified, however only 18 met the inclusion criteria for the study. The majority of these articles were reports on in-patient breastfeeding peer support interventions applied in Europe and the United States of America and only two were from LMICs. The articles described peer supporters' identification, training (n = 13) and supervision (n = 14). The majority of the BFPS were employed (n = 10) compared to volunteers (n = 3) and support was mainly one-to-one (n = 11) rather than group support. Process and impact evaluation (n = 13) reported positive breastfeeding outcomes associated with breastfeeding peer support. CONCLUSION: Breastfeeding peer support strategies are applied in different hospital settings and can be used to improve breastfeeding outcomes. However, to achieve integration, scalability and comparability of impact and outcomes, there is a need to standardize training, develop consistent implementation and supervision plans of in-patient peer supporters' strategies. Further research to assess sustainability and evaluate cost-effectiveness of in-patient breastfeeding peer support strategies will improve uptake and scalability of these potentially lifesaving interventions.