Women are increasingly using mobile phone apps to support breastfeeding decisions, a behaviour which may present new mothers with a set of potential worries as well, according to a study conducted in Australia.
The objective approach of most infant-feeding (IF) apps gives mothers a perception of greater control, confidence and efficiency at a time of transition and stress in the early stages of parenting an infant, said the researchers from Flinders University in Australia.
However, with over 100 such apps available, the mobile content can also present new mothers with another set of potential worries, including feeling overwhelmed by the information, concerns about over-reliance on the app, and even questioning the app’s advice. Overall, the women interviewed in the study, published in the Health Informatics Journal, were positive about using such apps.
“Some apps provide information that is not always accurate and can’t be tailored to the individual,” said senior researcher Jacqueline Miller, from Flinders University. “Information stored in the app can provide a useful history to discuss with health care providers who can then provide much more individualised advice, particularly with breastfeeding,” Miller said.
These targeted mobile apps can take the guesswork out of parenting, the researchers said. “They are increasingly giving mothers a modern way of tracking aspects of baby care, including feeding regularly, sleep, growth and nappy changes,” Miller said.
“A generation ago we used a safety pin to remind themselves which side to start feeding on. But these days we use apps to record all sorts of facts,” she said.
Community and health professional support is important for maternal decisions, with self and social perceptions, lifestyle choices as well as physical and psychological issues also playing a part, said Carly Moores, who also contributed to the study. Co-author Kaitlyn Dienelt conducted detailed interviews with nine nursing mothers using eight different IF apps in South Australia over 12 months.
She said the study demonstrates how important the mobile apps can be in making mothers feel encouraged and supported in their breastfeeding practices. “This technology is helping mothers with everyday routines and decision-making which can be tiring and sometimes complex with breastfeeding—although some mobile apps are better than others,” Dienelt said.
“Overall, the participants were positive and some even felt they would have given up on breastfeeding without the app,” she said.