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Open Access Research article

Revising acute care systems and processes to improve breastfeeding and maternal postnatal health: a pre and post intervention study in one English maternity unit

Debra Bick1*, Trevor Murrells1, Annette Weavers2, Val Rose2, Julie Wray3 and Sarah Beake1

Author Affiliations

1 Kings College, London, Florence Nightingale School of Nursing and Midwifery, London, UK

2 Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Reading, UK

3 The University of Salford, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Manchester, UK

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2012, 12:41  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-12-41

Published: 6 June 2012



Most women in the UK give birth in a hospital labour ward, following which they are transferred to a postnatal ward and discharged home within 24 to 48 hours of the birth. Despite policy and guideline recommendations to support planned, effective postnatal care, national surveys of women’s views of maternity care have consistently found in-patient postnatal care, including support for breastfeeding, is poorly rated.


Using a Continuous Quality Improvement approach, routine antenatal, intrapartum and postnatal care systems and processes were revised to support implementation of evidence based postnatal practice. To identify if implementation of a multi-faceted QI intervention impacted on outcomes, data on breastfeeding initiation and duration, maternal health and women’s views of care, were collected in a pre and post intervention longitudinal survey. Primary outcomes included initiation, overall duration and duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Secondary outcomes included maternal morbidity, experiences and satisfaction with care. As most outcomes of interest were measured on a nominal scale, these were compared pre and post intervention using logistic regression.


Data were obtained on 741/1160 (64%) women at 10 days post-birth and 616 (54%) at 3 months post-birth pre-intervention, and 725/1153 (63%) and 575 (50%) respectively post-intervention. Post intervention there were statistically significant differences in the initiation (p = 0.050), duration of any breastfeeding (p = 0.020) and duration of exclusive breastfeeding to 10 days (p = 0.038) and duration of any breastfeeding to three months (p = 0.016). Post intervention, women were less likely to report physical morbidity within the first 10 days of birth, and were more positive about their in-patient care.


It is possible to improve outcomes of routine in-patient care within current resources through continuous quality improvement.