An Evaluation of the Breastfeeding Peer Helper Program in Ohio's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children

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The Ohio State University

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Background: Ohio’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) serves infants, children up to age five, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or postpartum. Ohio WIC is comprised of 75 projects, each serving one to four counties. Beginning in January 2004, 11 projects implemented the Breastfeeding Peer Helper Program (BPHP), which aims to increase breastfeeding initiation and duration among WIC participants by employing and training women who have breastfed to promote, support and educate on breastfeeding as breastfeeding peer helpers (PH). The objectives of this study were to 1) describe current program operations 2) assess BPHP effects on initiation rates, and 3) determine the characteristics of successful programs. Methods: PH and supervisors completed an online questionnaire on training, employment, activities and PH demographics. Data on breastfeeding rates and participant demographics came from the Pediatric Nutrition Surveillance System (PedNSS), the Pregnancy Nutrition Surveillance System (PNSS) and administrative records. SPSS was used to analyze descriptive data and SAS to compare breastfeeding rates. Results: BPHP administration including hours of training (median: 24) ratio of peers to women participants (range: 1:100 to 1:1300), rate of pay (average: $10.43/hour), and activities performed by the PH (e.g., home and hospital visits) varied among projects. Among participants in BPHP projects breastfeeding initiation increased 18.3% from 2003 and 2007, compared to 12.8% (p<0.05) for non-BPHP projects. However, white participants in BPHP projects increased breastfeeding 23% (vs. 14% in non-BPHP, p<.005)), while there was no difference among black participants (14.8 vs. 14.5%). Projects with programs where PH made 21 or more hospital visits per quarter showed a 6.62% higher increase in breastfeeding initiation rates than those projects with fewer than 21. Conclusions: The Ohio BPHP is successful in improving breastfeeding rates among WIC participants. The program should explore ways to improve effectiveness among black participants.



Infant, WIC, Breastfeeding, Ohio, Peer, Counseling