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The process of establishing, implementing and maintaining a social support infant feeding programme

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2007

RG Watt*
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK
P McGlone
University of Plymouth, Plymouth, UK
JJ Russell
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK
KI Tull
Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK
E Dowler
University of Warwick, Warwick, UK
*Corresponding author: Email
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To describe the process of establishing and implementing a social support infant feeding intervention.


This paper outlines the initial stages of a randomised controlled trial which assessed the effectiveness of a social support intervention on a range of infant feeding outcomes. Details are presented of the processes involved in recruiting, training and supporting a group of volunteers who provided support to the study sample.


Camden and Islington, London, UK.


Initial networking with local agencies and organisations provided invaluable information and contacts. Employing a dedicated volunteer co-ordinator is vitally important in the recruitment, training and support of volunteers. Providing child care and travel expenses is an essential incentive for volunteers with young children. Advertisements placed in local newspapers were the most successful means of recruiting volunteers. Appropriate training is needed to equip volunteers with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide effective support. Particular emphasis in the training focused upon developing the necessary interpersonal skills and self-confidence. The evaluation of the training programme demonstrated that it improved volunteers’ knowledge and reported confidence. The provision of ongoing support is also essential to maintain volunteers’ interest and enthusiasm. The retention of volunteers is, however, a key challenge.


The processes outlined in this paper have demonstrated the feasibility of successfully establishing, implementing and maintaining a community-based social support infant feeding programme. The experiences described provide useful insights into the practical issues that need to be addressed in setting up a social support intervention.

Research Article
Copyright © The Authors 2006


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