The government’s Family Nurse Partnership pilots have shown modest success in encouraging pregnant women to stop smoking and to breastfeed their babies, suggests research.
The pilot programme, which is now in its second year, is designed to target first-time mothers, aged between 20 and 24, who have never been in employment, have no qualifications, or currently have no support from their baby’s father.
A University of London study involved the programme’s initial 10 pilot sites. A total of 1,003 babies have been born to families included in the pilots in their first two years.
Of these, 63 per cent were initially breastfed and more than a third were still being breast fed at six weeks. The researchers said this was “promising in relation to rates identified in national surveys for socio-economically disadvantaged mothers”.
The researchers also noted a “relative reduction” in smoking among pregnant women in the scheme, although they found “substantial differences” between the sites.
The service, which is based on the successful 30-year-old US Nurse Family Partnership model, is currently being piloted at 40 pilot sites across England. Another 10 will be launched by January.
Health minister Ann Keen said: “Early signs show that it is having a real impact on reducing smoking and improving breast feeding rates for young mothers.”
An earlier government-commissioned study by the University of London, published in July 2008, looked at the first 12 months of the pilots.
Overall it concluded the programme could be effectively delivered across England, though problems were noted on the recruitment and retention of mothers to the pilot schemes. It also noted that caseloads forced practitioners to work 20% more than their contracted hours.
The Scottish Government announced earlier this month that it would start a similar scheme early next year, with six nurses to begin training for the project in November.