Research news: September 2011
Breast milk can be life saving for babies in developing countries, and a cluster randomised trial in three countries in sub-Saharan Africa shows that it is possible to double the proportion of women who exclusively breast feed simply by providing regular support from peers. Home visits from trained local women starting in the third trimester worked well, doubling rates of exclusive breast feeding at 12 weeks in all three countries and maintaining a significant difference between intervention and control communities for at least six months, when compared with usual care (73% v 22% in Burkina Faso, 59% v 15% in Uganda, and 2% v <1% in South Africa).
Peer support and higher rates of breast feeding did not help prevent infant diarrhoea in these 82 communities in Burkina Faso, Uganda, or South Africa, however. Mothers in intervention and control communities reported recent diarrhoea in 5-10% of infants at