An evaluation of the breastfeeding support skills of midwives and voluntary breastfeeding supporters using the Breastfeeding Support Skills Tool (BeSST)
The promotion of breastfeeding has been established as a global public health issue. Despite this global agenda, breastfeeding initiation and duration rates remain low in many countries. The lack of provision of adequate support to the breastfeeding mother is an important contributory factor to shorter duration of breastfeeding. Health professionals and voluntary breastfeeding supporters are in a prime position to work collaboratively to provide comprehensive support to the breastfeeding mother. However, a comparative evaluation of the breastfeeding support skills of voluntary breastfeeding supporters and health professionals has never been conducted. This study aimed to assess the breastfeeding support skills of midwives and Breastfeeding Network (BfN) supporters. Breastfeeding support skills were assessed using a between-subjects design conducted with 15 midwives and 15 BfN supporters in the north-west of England. Support skills were measured using the prevalidated Breastfeeding Support Skills Tool (BeSST), a questionnaire and video tool. Total scores on the BeSST were significantly higher in the BfN group (mean = 42.5 ± 6.4 SD) than in the midwife group (mean = 30.7 ± 8.2 SD) [t (26.5) = 4.4, P < 0.0001]. The BfN group has the breastfeeding support skills necessary to provide adequate assistance for breastfeeding mothers. An interagency and interdisciplinary collaborative model is crucial to developing a coherent and cohesive approach to the support infrastructure for breastfeeding women.