Article Text

The FEeding Support Team (FEST) randomised, controlled feasibility trial of proactive and reactive telephone support for breastfeeding women living in disadvantaged areas
  1. Pat Hoddinott1,
  2. Leone Craig2,
  3. Graeme Maclennan1,
  4. Dwayne Boyers3,
  5. Luke Vale4 On behalf of the NHS Grampian and the University of Aberdeen FEST Project Team
  1. 1Health Services Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  2. 2Public Health Nutrition Research Group, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  3. 3Health Economics Research Unit, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
  4. 4Health Economics Group, Institute of Health and Society, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Pat Hoddinott; p.hoddinott{at}


Objective To assess the feasibility of implementing a dedicated feeding support team on a postnatal ward and pilot the potential effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of team (proactive) and woman-initiated (reactive) telephone support after discharge.

Design Randomised controlled trial embedded within a before-and-after study. Participatory approach and mixed-method process evaluation.

Setting A postnatal ward in Scotland.

Sample Women living in disadvantaged areas initiating breast feeding.

Methods Eligible women were recruited to a before-and-after intervention study, a proportion of whom were independently randomised after hospital discharge to intervention: daily proactive and reactive telephone calls for ≤14 days or control: reactive telephone calls ≤ day 14. Intention-to-treat analysis compared the randomised groups on cases with complete outcomes at follow-up.

Main outcome measures Primary outcome: any breast feeding at 6–8 weeks assessed by a telephone call from a researcher blind to group allocation. Secondary outcomes: exclusive breast feeding, satisfaction with care, NHS costs and cost per additional woman breast feeding.

Results There was no difference in feeding outcomes for women initiating breast feeding before the intervention (n=413) and after (n=388). 69 women were randomised to telephone support: 35 intervention (32 complete cases) and 34 control (26 complete cases). 22 intervention women compared with 12 control women were giving their baby some breast milk (RR 1.49, 95% CI 0.92 to 2.40) and 17 intervention women compared with eight control women were exclusively breast feeding (RR 1.73, 95% CI 0.88 to 3.37) at 6–8 weeks after birth. The incremental cost of providing proactive calls was £87 per additional woman breast feeding and £91 per additional woman exclusively breast feeding at 6–8 weeks; costs were sensitive to service organisation.

Conclusions Proactive telephone care delivered by a dedicated feeding team shows promise as a cost-effective intervention for improving breastfeeding outcomes. Integrating the FEeding Support Team (FEST) intervention into routine postnatal care was feasible.

Trial registration number ISRCTN27207603. The study protocol and final report are available on request.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial License, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non commercial and is otherwise in compliance with the license. See: and

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  • To cite: Hoddinott P, Craig L, Maclennan G, et al. The FEeding Support Team (FEST) randomised, controlled feasibility trial of proactive and reactive telephone support for breastfeeding women living in disadvantaged areas. BMJ Open 2012;2:e000652. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2011-000652

  • Contributors PH had the idea for the study, and all the people acknowledged were involved in the design of the study. GM conducted the statistical analysis; DB and LV led the health economic data analysis with PH and LC contributing to the analysis of relevant qualitative data. LC and Karen Arnold conducted interviews with women participants. LC, Dale Sherriff and PH conducted interviews with staff. All authors had full access to anonymised data in the study and can take responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. PH wrote the first draft of the paper and all authors made important intellectual contributions to the content and approved the final version.

  • Funding This study was funded by NHS Grampian through the Scottish Government: nutrition of women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children under 5 years in disadvantaged areas—funding allocation 2008–2011, NHS Health Scotland ( NHS Grampian and the University of Aberdeen worked in partnership to implement the study. PH is employed by the University of Aberdeen and as a General Practitioner with NHS Grampian. All evaluation was conducted by University of Aberdeen employees.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval North of Scotland Research ethics committee approved this study on 19 April 2010, ref: 10/S0801/22.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement A final report of this research is available on request from PH.

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