Commissioning Peer Support

Information for Commissioners

This information is for commissioners of public health, maternity and children’s services. It is also for Clinical Commissioning Groups. We hope that it will give an understanding of BfN’s organisational model of breastfeeding support to help inform decision-making when commissioning breastfeeding services.

The Breastfeeding Network has over 15 years of providing breastfeeding peer support working in communities where breastfeeding rates are at their lowest. Our commissioned projects are varied and we have experience of providing support in a variety of settings using targeted and universal approaches with a mix of trained staff and volunteers.

To see our Capability Statement click here

For more information about commissioning peer support for your area please email

Why commission breastfeeding peer support?

Properly commissioned and adequately funded breastfeeding peer support services are effective and relatively low cost for the benefits they can achieve.

Benefits can be far-reaching, not just for the health and wellbeing of the mother and baby but also in increased social capital in some of the poorest areas. Have a look at our Theory of Change (to be uploaded soon) to see the difference peer support can make

Breastfeeding peer support should be multifaceted and should be commissioned in line with NICE guidelines. It is not an alternative to health professional support but a valuable part of breastfeeding support service.

There are many good reasons to commission breastfeeding peer support:-

  • Evaluation shows breastfeeding peer support is valued by new mothers, increases breastfeeding initiation and continuation and builds social capital.
  • Peer supporters provide a valuable role helping mothers to make informed decisions about feeding their new baby and continuing to breastfeed for as long as they want
  • Peer support can succeed in reaching women who do not easily identify with health professionals.
  • Peer supporters have effective training and are all women who have experience of breastfeeding, giving them a ‘belief’ in breastfeeding which helps them to motivate and encourage new mothers.
  • There are benefits to the women who train as peer supporters as well. Evaluation shows they grow in confidence, often going on to further training and new careers, including midwifery. This helps build social capital with women bringing new skills back to their communities.
  • Breastfeeding peer support plays an integral part in building community capacity and helping communities become supportive of breastfeeding
  • Peer support can help towards attainment of UNICEF Baby Friendly Initiative accreditation.
  • Peer Supporters are uniquely positioned to give brief interventions and signpost women to other important services. For example; smoking cessation, healthy lifestyles support, domestic abuse support.
  • Peer support helps to reduce social isolation and offers parents an opportunity to socialise and exchange experiences

Thanks to Scottish Government Funding in 2015 (Third Sector Early Intervention), the Breastfeeding Network was able to carry out an evaluation of its peer support schemes in England and Scotland. Our aim was to better understand the impact of BfN peer support on women, families and communities, develop a logic and theory of change model and also produce an evaluation framework that the charity can adopt to measure social impact for the future.  More details about this evaluation project can be found here

Training & Quality

All our training at Helper and Supporter level is fully accredited by Open College London and we have just achieved Direct Claims Status (DCS). This means that BfN has been deemed to have an appropriately skilled and knowledgeable internal verifier and robust quality systems. This enables BfN to make the right decisions about awards to learners, without constant checks by OCN. The status is therefore built on trust and confidence.

‘The standing of the centre is enhanced. The trust and confidence implicit in DCS signals to others (including funders) that the centre is well-regarded and takes quality seriously.’

Our training is free to women at Helper and Supporter level. You can find out more about our training here 

Once training is completed we continue to offer ongoing learning opportunities and regular supervision to all volunteers and staff. You can find out more about supervision and why it is important here.

Commissioning Guidance (further reading)

There is evidence and guidance about the impact of peer support and how to commission it here.

For more information please contact a member of our business development team at

Some examples of the type of support Breastfeeding Network peer supporters can offer

  • Group support in community based breastfeeding centres working with health care professionals or independently
  • 1:1 support via telephone or text messages – often set up to offer support in the first day after discharge from hospital and continuing for the first 4-6 weeks after birth
  • 1:1 support with a named peer supporter providing support as required by each family – often targeted to specific areas and may include support over the phone, via home visits or using text messages
  • 1:1 support on the wards within a hospital – may include maternity units, paediatric units and neonatal units. Peer supporters can offer social and emotional support as well as support with breastfeeding to complement the work of midwives and others on the wards. Can also include signposting to ongoing 1:1 support or community based group support
  • Antenatal input including 1:1 support, antenatal classes and support at groups
  • Evidence based information and support to women encouraging introduction of appropriate solid foods at around 6 months – alongside continued breastfeeding or other milk feeds
  • Brief interventions and signposting to other important services. for example; smoking cessation, healthy lifestyles support, domestic abuse support

Case Studies

We have case studies available to help give an in-depth picture of breastfeeding support services run by the Breastfeeding Network. These include information and quotes from families and from infant feeding coordinators and health professionals.


Page last updated November 2016