A randomised study was carried out in Denmark to investigate health visitors’ breastfeeding experiences, beliefs, knowledge and ability/confidence to provide breastfeeding guidance, and how these were reflected in practice following completion of an 18-hour course. The course focused on knowledge about lactation and how to guide the mother to learn the mechanisms of breastfeeding, and was based on the World Health Organization’s Breastfeeding Counseling Course (on which the UNICEF UK three-day course in breastfeeding management is also based).
Fifty-two health visitors were recruited to the intervention group and 57 to the control group. The groups were similar in terms of education background, subjects’ own breastfeeding experiences, beliefs and ability, and self- confidence in providing breastfeeding guidance. Following the course, health visitors in the intervention group demonstrated significantly higher scores on knowledge questions and reported more confidence and ability in providing guidance on three out of five breastfeeding problems. Mothers who were under the care of health visitors in the intervention group reported having received more support and information than mothers whose health visitor was in the control group.
The authors conclude that provision of such an interactive course can increase health visitors’ knowledge and management of breastfeeding practice. They note that this increase in knowledge and self-efficacy was obtained among health visitors who already had a high level of knowledge. They conclude that the effect of introducing an interactive supportive breastfeeding course may well be even stronger in countries with less well developed systems.
Kronborg H et al. (2008) Health visitors and breastfeeding support: influence of knowledge and self-efficacy. Eur J Public Health; 18 (3): 283-288