Impact of education and training on type of care provided by community-based breastfeeding counselors: a cross-sectional study
Sullivan, Elizabeth M
Bignell, Whitney E
Anderson, Alex K
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Abstract Background Studies using community-based breastfeeding counselors (CBBCs) have repeatedly shown positive impact on breastfeeding initiation, exclusivity and duration, particularly among low-income mothers. To date, there has not been a comprehensive study to determine the impact of CBBC attributes such as educational background and training, on the type of care that CBBCs provide. Methods This was a cross-sectional study of a convenience sample of CBBCs to ascertain the influence of counselor education and type of training on type of support and proficiency of CBBCs in communities across the United States. Invitations to participate in this online survey of CBBCs were e-mailed to program coordinators of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), La Leche League, and other community-based health organizations, who in turn invited and encouraged their CBBCs to participate. Descriptive analysis was used to describe participants (N = 847), while bivariate analysis using χ2 test was used to examine the differences between CBBC education, training received and breastfeeding support skills used. Multivariate logistic regression was used to assess the independent determinants of specific breastfeeding support skills. Results The major findings from the research indicate that overall, educational attainment of CBBCs is not a significant predictor for the curriculum used in their training and type of support skills used during counseling sessions, but initial training duration was positively associated with the use of many breastfeeding support skills. Another major influence of counselor support to clients is the type of continuing education they receive after their initial training, with higher likelihood of use of desirable support skills associated with counselors continuing their breastfeeding education at conferences or trainings away from their job sites. Conclusions Our results show that different programs use different training curricula to train their CBBCs varying in duration and content. Counselor education is not a significant predictor of the type of training they receive. Continuing breastfeeding education is a significant determinant of type of counseling techniques used with clients. Further research is therefore needed to critically examine the content of the various training curricula of CBBC programs. This may show a need for a standardized training curriculum for all CBBC programs worldwide to make CBBCs more proficient and efficient, ensuring successful and optimum breastfeeding experiences for mothers and their newborns.