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Open Access Study protocol

Ringing Up about Breastfeeding: a randomised controlled trial exploring early telephone peer support for breastfeeding (RUBY) – trial protocol

Della A Forster12*, Helen L McLachlan13, Mary-Ann Davey1, Lisa H Amir1*, Lisa Gold4, Rhonda Small1, Kate Mortensen5, Anita M Moorhead2, Heather A Grimes16 and Fiona E McLardie-Hore2

Author Affiliations

1 Judith Lumley Centre (formerly Mother & Child Health Research), La Trobe University, 215 Franklin Street, Melbourne, Victoria 3000, Australia

2 The Royal Women’s Hospital, Grattan St & Flemington Roads, Parkville, Victoria 3052, Australia

3 School of Nursing & Midwifery, Faculty of Health Sciences, La Trobe University, Bundoora, Victoria 3086, Australia

4 Deakin Population Health Strategic Research Centre, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Victoria 3125, Australia

5 Australian Breastfeeding Association, PO Box 4000, Glen Iris, Victoria 3146, Australia

6 Department of Rural Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University Rural Health School, PO Box 199, Bendigo, Victoria 3552, Australia

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BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth 2014, 14:177  doi:10.1186/1471-2393-14-177

Published: 28 May 2014



The risks of not breastfeeding for mother and infant are well established, yet in Australia, although most women initiate breastfeeding many discontinue breastfeeding altogether and few women exclusively breastfeed to six months as recommended by the World Health Organization and Australian health authorities. We aim to determine whether proactive telephone peer support during the postnatal period increases the proportion of infants who are breastfed at six months, replicating a trial previously found to be effective in Canada.


A two arm randomised controlled trial will be conducted, recruiting primiparous women who have recently given birth to a live baby, are proficient in English and are breastfeeding or intending to breastfeed. Women will be recruited in the postnatal wards of three hospitals in Melbourne, Australia and will be randomised to peer support or to ‘usual’ care. All women recruited to the trial will receive usual hospital postnatal care and infant feeding support. For the intervention group, peers will make two telephone calls within the first ten days postpartum, then weekly telephone calls until week twelve, with continued contact until six months postpartum. Primary aim: to determine whether postnatal telephone peer support increases the proportion of infants who are breastfed for at least six months. Hypothesis: that telephone peer support in the postnatal period will increase the proportion of infants receiving any breast milk at six months by 10% compared with usual care (from 46% to 56%).

Outcome data will be analysed by intention to treat. A supplementary multivariate analysis will be undertaken if there are any baseline differences in the characteristics of women in the two groups which might be associated with the primary outcomes.


The costs and health burdens of not breastfeeding fall disproportionately and increasingly on disadvantaged groups. We have therefore deliberately chosen trial sites which have a high proportion of women from disadvantaged backgrounds. This will be the first Australian randomised controlled trial to test the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of proactive peer telephone support for breastfeeding.

Trial registration

Australian and New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12612001024831.

Breastfeeding; Exclusive breastfeeding; Breastfeeding rates; Peer support; Telephone; Australia