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P115 Breastfeeding Peer Counselors: Support Mothers Can Trust

      Objective

      The Flint water crisis left many mothers of all income levels with limited trust in outside resources. With the support of the Greater Flint Community Foundation, a peer counselor was hired to support breastfeeding mothers. A peer counselor is a local mother representative of the community who has already developed trust within the community. This study looks at the effectiveness of community-funded breastfeeding peer counselors representative of their communities.

      Use of Theory or Research

      One of the most highly effective preventative measures a mother can take to protect the health of her infant is to breastfeed. In the US, 81% of babies initiate breastfeeding; 22% are exclusively breastfed 6 months later. According to the CDC, peer support programs are effective in increasing initiation, duration, and exclusivity of breastfeeding. Peer counseling is rooted in the theory of reasoned action which recognizes the influence of peers on individual behavior. Breastfeeding peer counselors help to normalize breastfeeding within their own community.

      Target Audience

      Pregnant and breastfeeding women who reside in Flint, Michigan.

      Program Description

      The peer counselor provided evidence-based education and support to increase initiation, duration, and exclusivity. The peer counselor educated, supported, and encouraged women to continue breastfeeding exclusively for 6 months and continue until at least 1 year of age. The peer counselor conducted home visits and was available during evenings and weekends. The number of visits varied depending on the needs of the mother. If possible, at least 1 visit was completed prenatally and minimally 1 visit within the first week after delivery. Additional contacts were provided through home visits, phone calls and FaceTime during the immediate postpartum period when one‐on‐one support for initiation of breastfeeding is critical.

      Evaluation Methods

      Women were recruited through referrals from a variety of community agencies that work with families in the city of Flint. Demographic (age, race, ethnicity, income), initiation, duration, and exclusivity information was collected from all participants who enrolled in program.

      Results

      Fifty presentations on benefits of breastfeeding reached 547 families between September 2018 – September 2019. Of the 103 mothers enrolled in the program, 98% initiated breastfeeding and 76% were still breastfeeding at 6 months.

      Conclusions

      Home visiting peer counselors were effective in promoting breastfeeding success in mothers in Flint. Many participants mentioned the importance of the peer counselor being a trusted mother representative of their community. This strategy should continue to be utilized and expanded to improve breastfeeding rates.
      Funding Greater Flint Community Foundation.

      Appendix. Supplementary data