The National Breastfeeding Helpline Evaluation report

Overview of project findings

Page last updated: 13 February 2013

The Breastfeeding Helpline generally provides an appropriate and important source of breastfeeding information and support to mothers and their families. Breastfeeding Helpline services are implemented by volunteer counsellors who satisfy core competencies, commit to the Breastfeeding Helpline for two years and offer peer support to mothers.

The Breastfeeding Helpline gains considerable leverage from its location within the ABA and is connected to evidence based information and training. The Breastfeeding Helpline benefits from the high profile of the ABA in the community, with stakeholder organisations and as an advisor to governments on policy.

Challenges to the effectiveness and efficiency of the Breastfeeding Helpline include:

  • sustaining a sufficient supply of trained volunteer counsellors to meet a relatively constant demand for breastfeeding information and support;
  • ensuring consistency of information and support provided by the Breastfeeding Helpline;
  • adapting to preferred communication methods for both mainstream users of the Breastfeeding Helpline and priority population groups, which will be important to the continuing relevance and accessibility of the service, such as call back in response to text message, video conferencing, integration with face to face visits;
  • promoting Breastfeeding Helpline services to improve the level of awareness of communication options to reinforce the inclusive nature of services for all mothers and their families, regardless for example of disability or language proficiency; and
  • building on the distinctive features of the Breastfeeding Helpline to reinforce its role within the growing number of related helpline services to benefit both consumers and service providers.
The Breastfeeding Helpline is more cost effective when its operating costs are compared to two other modelled scenarios including an existing helpline. This compares favourably with the other models both of which involve paid staff and a higher ratio of cost to output/outcome achieved. The analysis also indicates additional costs might be involved if it was necessary to achieve a greater level of certainty for Breastfeeding Helpline staffing through for example, a core of paid staff.

Other suggested areas for further development of the Breastfeeding Helpline include additional training support for counsellors to ensure a sufficient level of confidence in supporting priority population groups and continued vigilance in ensuring that caller experience of the service is consistent with an empathetic and empowering response. In addition, there is scope for a more systematic approach to integration of the Breastfeeding Helpline into workforce practices and local services with the aim to ensure appropriate referrals to the Breastfeeding Helpline and minimise duplication of services.

Regular monitoring and review of the Breastfeeding Helpline should be undertaken with a view to a comprehensive summary of trends, emerging issues and implications for operation drawing on current data collection including quality surveys and emerging evidence of good practice.