Open Access Open Badges Research article

UK Breastfeeding Helpline support: An investigation of influences upon satisfaction

Gill Thomson1*, Nicola Crossland1, Fiona Dykes1 and Chris J Sutton2

Author Affiliations

1 Maternal and Infant Nutrition and Nurture Unit (MAINN), School of Health, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE, England

2 School of Health, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE, England

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:150  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-150

Published: 13 December 2012



Helpline services have become an increasingly popular mode of providing community access to information and expert information and advice in the health and welfare sector. This paper reports on data collected from 908 callers to UK-based breastfeeding helplines.


A mixed methods design was adopted utilising a structured interview schedule to elicit callers experiences of the help and support received. In this paper we report on a series of multiple regression models undertaken to elicit the variables associated with callers’ ‘overall satisfaction’ with the helpline service. Three models were constructed; 1) caller demographic/call characteristics; 2) attitudes and effectiveness of service characteristics and 3) impact of support on caller wellbeing.


Overall, 74.6% of callers were very satisfied, and 19.8% were satisfied with the help and support received by the helpline service. The caller demographic/call characteristics found to have a significant relationship with overall satisfaction related to the ease of getting through to the helpline and whether the woman had previously breastfed. Service characteristics associated with overall satisfaction related to whether the information received was helpful and whether the support helped to resolve their issues. The extent to which the volunteer was perceived to have enough time, whether the support had encouraged them to continue breastfeeding, met the caller’s expectations and/or provided the support the caller needed were also significantly associated. Caller outcomes contributing significantly to overall satisfaction concerned callers feeling less stressed, more confident, reassured and determined to continue breastfeeding following the call. Consideration of the effect sizes indicated that key factors associated with overall satisfaction related to: volunteers having sufficient time to deal with the callers’ issues; the information being perceived as helpful; the volunteers providing the support the callers needed; and for callers to feel reassured following the call.


Overall, these results highlight the value of the breastfeeding helpline(s) in terms of providing rapid, targeted, realistic, practical, and responsive support that provides affirmation and encouragement. The benefits include confidence building and callers feeling reassured and motivated to continue breastfeeding. Care needs to be taken to ensure that helpline support is easily accessible to ensure that callers and their families can access support when needed. This may require consideration of extension to a 24 hour service.

Breastfeeding; Helpline; Survey; Descriptive; Evaluation; Peer support