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Grimes_PLoS One_2020_RUBY volunteers qual.pdf (445.7 kB)

Breastfeeding peer support by telephone in the RUBY randomised controlled trial: a qualitative exploration of volunteers' experiences

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Background There is growing evidence that peer support programs may be effective in supporting breastfeeding mothers. A randomised controlled trial (RCT) (the RUBY study) that tested peer support in the Australian context found that infants of first-time mothers who received proactive telephone peer support were more likely to be receiving breastmilk at six months of age. Methods This qualitative sub-study of the RUBY RCT explores the experiences and views of peer volunteers who delivered the intervention. Focus groups were conducted with 17 peers from the RUBY RCT between November 2015 and March 2016. All had provided peer support to at least one mother. Results We found that volunteers identified strongly with the mothers' need for support when establishing breastfeeding. Key components of the support were strengthening the mothers' selfbelief through affirmation and sharing experiential knowledge. Volunteers found the role rewarding and personally therapeutic although some women reported challenges initiating and maintaining contact with some mothers. Data were analysed using a hybrid approach to thematic analysis combining inductive and deductive techniques Conclusions Breastfeeding peer support programs are reliant on recruitment of motivated volunteers who can provide empathetic mother-to-mother support. This study provides important information regarding volunteers' experiences that may support the upscaling of breastfeeding peer support for new mothers.


The RUBY trial was jointly funded by the Alfred Felton Bequest and a PhD scholarship from La Trobe University (HG). Neither funding source was involved in the conduct or dissemination of this research.


Publication Date



PLoS One





Article Number



15p. (p. 1-15)


Public Library of Science



Rights Statement

© 2020 Grimes et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.