This presentation will discuss issues involved in undertaking an evaluation of breastfeeding peer support, commissioned by NHS Wiltshire to consider how the implementation of breastfeeding peer support in Wiltshire might be improved. The focus was three areas with significant deprivation and low breastfeeding rates. The underlying aim was to consider the effectiveness of peer support, how accessible it was to women in these areas and to those least likely to breastfeed, including young women. A specific peer support intervention had been initiated to target areas of significantly lower prevalence of breastfeeding, involving ante- and post-natal text and telephone contact and we were asked to evaluate its implementation.
Breastfeeding is a public health priority in the UK, widely acknowledged to be important in improving public health and reducing health inequalities. Increasing breastfeeding duration in lower income groups and amongst younger women is seen as a key target in reducing health inequalities, and has been particularly emphasised by the Department of Health.
The evaluation was influenced by realist evaluation and qualitative methodology. One-to-one semi-structured interviews were carried out with twelve stakeholders and seven breastfeeding women. Two focus groups were carried out with breastfeeding peer supporters in two out of three identified evaluation areas.
Thematic analysis identified five themes: the value of peer support, the perception of peer support groups, the provision of peer support, reaching the women least likely to breastfeed and ante- and post-natal support. These are discussed and supported by quotations from participants. Findings will be related to the original objectives of the evaluation and our recommendations discussed.