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The Midwifery and Maternity Services Research Unit

RUBY: Ringing up about breastfeeding: a randomised controlled trial exploring early telephone peer support for breastfeeding

Della Forster, Helen McLachlan, Lisa Amir, Anita Moorhead, Touran Shafiei, Rhonda Small (JLC), Heather Grimes and Fiona McLardie-Hore. Collaborators: Mary-Ann Davey, Monash University; Cindy-Lee Dennis, University of Toronto, Canada; Christine East, Monash Health; Lisa Gold, Deakin University; Kate Mortensen and Nanette Shone, Australian Breastfeeding Association

The RUBY study is the first Australian randomised controlled trial (RCT) to test the effectiveness, including cost effectiveness, of a proactive approach to peer support for breastfeeding. The mother-to-mother peer support was provided in a proactive manner for mothers who may not easily have had access to, nor readily sought, such support themselves, with the aim of increasing the proportion of women breastfeeding for at least six months. It targeted women with low rates of breastfeeding, recruiting women from three Victorian hospitals, the Royal Women’s Hospital, Monash Health and Sunshine Hospital (Western Health) whose catchments included areas with some of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the state.

The project has been a collaboration between the university and hospital sectors and the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA), the peak community advocacy group for breastfeeding. Women were randomly allocated to either usual postnatal care or to usual care plus telephone support from another mother up to 6 months postpartum. Peer volunteers attended one training session to provide empathy, encouragement and social support to the women by telephone, as well as information and suggestions about existing clinical and support services for participants. In total 1152 participants were recruited to the study between February 2013 and December 2015, with 233 volunteers providing telephone support to women allocated to the intervention. Follow up interviews of participants (primary outcome) were conducted at 6 months’ post birth, and 1016 interviews were completed. In total, 359 mail-out surveys were returned from women who received the peer support intervention. Two focus groups of volunteers have been conducted and 134 volunteers have completed an on-line survey regarding their experience of supporting a mother. Face to face interviews have been conducted with 10 mothers who received peer support.

FUNDING: Felton Bequest and La Trobe University

www.latrobe.edu.au/jlc/research/breastfeeding/ruby


Related publications

  1. Forster DA, McLachlan HL, Davey MA, Amir LH, Gold L, Small R, Mortensen K, Moorhead AM, Grimes HA, McLardie-Hore, FE. Ringing Up about Breastfeeding: a randomised controlled trial exploring earlY telephone peer support for breastfeeding (RUBY) – trial protocol. BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2014;14:177. https://bmcpregnancychildbirth.biomedcentral.com/track/pdf/10.1186/1471-2393-14-177