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Effectiveness of Social-psychological Interventions at Promoting Breastfeeding Initiation, Duration and Exclusivity: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-485
Number of pages37
JournalHealth Psychology Review
Issue number4
Early online date4 Jul 2019
Accepted/In press7 Jun 2019
E-pub ahead of print4 Jul 2019
Published1 Oct 2020


King's Authors


Evidence for the health benefits of breastfeeding is well substantiated but breastfeeding uptake and duration remains low worldwide. Individual level breastfeeding promotion programmes are behavioural interventions, targeting malleable social-psychological processes to change behaviour. This systematic review aimed to investigate whether such interventions are effective at improving breastfeeding initiation, duration and exclusivity, and breastfeeding support. A three-stage search strategy identified eligible articles from six databases. Nine controlled-clinical trials and 11 quasi-experimental trials were included. Random-effects meta-analyses identified significant improvements in rates of breastfeeding initiation (N = 2,213; OR = 2.32, 95% CI [1.33, 4.03], p = .003; I2 = 0%, p = .966) and suggested improved exclusive breastfeeding rates up to six months postpartum (N = 3,671; OR = 1.84, 95% CI [1.38, 2.45], p <.001; I2 = 68.7%, p <.001). After considering small-sample effects, estimates for exclusive breastfeeding across the postpartum period were non-significant. There were no improvements in women maintaining any (i.e. non-exclusive) breastfeeding to one, two, three, four or six months postpartum (N = 4,153; OR = 0.88, 95% CI [0.72, 1.09], p = .253). Evidence for improvements in perceived and actual breastfeeding support was limited. Sub-group analyses suggest standalone postnatal interventions targeting first-time mothers may support breastfeeding uptake. Findings should be interpreted cautiously as the quality of evidence for each outcome was low with a high risk of bias. Future efforts to support women to breastfeed should assimilate behaviour change research, with process evaluation to identify effective processes to inform a high-quality evidence-base for implementation in practice.

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