An assets-based intervention before and after birth to improve breastfeeding initiation and continuation: the ABA feasibility RCT



Clarke JL, Ingram J, Johnson D, Thomson G, Trickey H, Dombrowski SU, Sitch A, Dykes F, Feltham MG, MacArthur C, Roberts T, Hoddinott P & Jolly K (2020) An assets-based intervention before and after birth to improve breastfeeding initiation and continuation: the ABA feasibility RCT. Public Health Research, 8 (7), pp. 1-156.

Background The UK has low levels of breastfeeding initiation and continuation, with evident socioeconomic disparities. To be inclusive, peer-support interventions should be woman-centred rather than breastfeeding-centred. Assets-based approaches to public health focus on the positive capabilities of individuals and communities, rather than their deficits and problems. The Assets-based feeding help Before and After birth (ABA) intervention offers an assets-based approach based on behaviour change theory. Objective To investigate the feasibility of delivering the ABA infant feeding intervention in a randomised controlled trial. Design This was an individually randomised controlled feasibility trial; women were randomised in a 1 : 1 ratio to either the intervention group or the comparator (usual care) group. Setting Two separate English sites were selected because they had an existing breastfeeding peer support service, relatively high levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and low rates of breastfeeding. Participants Women aged ≥ 16 years who were pregnant with their first child, irrespective of feeding intention (n = 103), were recruited by researchers in antenatal clinics. Interventions Proactive, woman-centred support, using an assets-based approach and including behaviour change techniques, was provided by an infant-feeding helper (a breastfeeding peer supporter trained in the ABA intervention) and delivered through face-to-face contact, telephone conversations and text messages. The intervention commenced at around 30 weeks’ gestation and could continue until 5 months postnatally. Main outcome measures The main outcome measures were feasibility of intervention delivery with the requisite intensity and duration; acceptability to women, infant-feeding helpers and maternity services; and feasibility of a future randomised controlled trial. Outcomes included recruitment rates and follow-up rates at 3 days, 8 weeks and 6 months postnatally, and outcomes for a future full trial were collected via participant questionnaires. A mixed-methods process evaluation included qualitative interviews with women, infant-feeding helpers and maternity services; infant-feeding helper logs; and audio-recordings of antenatal contacts to check intervention fidelity. Results Of the 135 eligible women approached, 103 (76.3%) agreed to participate. The study was successful in recruiting teenagers (8.7%) and women living in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage (37.3% resided in the most deprived 40% of small areas in England). Postnatal follow-up rates were 68.0%, 85.4% and 80.6% at 3 days, 8 weeks and 6 months, respectively. Feeding status at 8 weeks was obtained for 95.1% of participants. Recruitment took place from February 2017 until August 2017. It was possible to recruit and train existing peer supporters to the infant-feeding helper role. The intervention was delivered to most women with relatively high fidelity. Among the 50 women in the intervention group, 39 received antenatal visits and 40 received postnatal support. Qualitative data showed that the intervention was acceptable. There was no evidence of intervention-related harms. Limitations Birth notification delays resulted in delays in the collection of postnatal feeding status data and in the offer of postnatal support. In addition, the intervention needs to better consider all infant-feeding types and did not adequately accommodate women who delivered prematurely. Conclusion It is feasible to deliver the intervention and trial. Future work The intervention should be tested in a fully powered randomised controlled trial.

Public Health Research: Volume 8, Issue 7

FundersPublic Health Research Programme
Publication date30/04/2020
Publication date online30/04/2020
Date accepted by journal01/05/2019
PublisherNational Institute for Health Research

People (2)


Dr Stephan Dombrowski

Dr Stephan Dombrowski

Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Psychology

Professor Pat Hoddinott

Professor Pat Hoddinott

Chair in Primary Care, NMAHP