Social Support for Breastfeeding in the Era of mHealth: A Content Analysis

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Abstract

Background:

Several barriers to successful breastfeeding exist, including a lack of support from peers or professionals. With the emergence of mobile health (mHealth) tools to provide additional breastfeeding support, a more thorough review of social support resources was needed.

Research Aim:

The aim of this study was to determine mHealth breastfeeding support resources and characterize the type of social support they provide.

Methods:

A content analysis of mHealth programs (n = 65), including text messaging (n = 12) and mobile applications (n = 53), was conducted on the basis of searches of the iTunes and Google Play stores (n = 50) and PubMed, the Cumulative Index of Nursing and Allied Health, and American Business Information/INFORM Complete Plus (n = 15). Results were then dual-coded for key characteristics and types of support provided.

Results:

Thirty-eight apps (76%) were free to users, 14 (28%) were offered in a variety of languages, and 47 (94%) provided informational support. The mobile applications were targeted largely to postpartum women, focused on breastfeeding duration, and included troubleshooting information. Mobile applications often included media components (n = 12 [24%]); few were tailored or personalized (n = 5 [10%]) and interactive (n = 15 [30%]). Text-messaging programs were available in a variety of countries (n = 7 [58%]) and provided mostly informational support (n = 5 [42%]), were pro-breastfeeding (n = 12 [100%]), were targeted to both pregnant and postpartum women (n = 6 [50%]), focused on both breastfeeding initiation and duration (n = 9 [75%]), and had two-way interactivity (n = 6 [50%]) and personalization (n = 5 [42%]).

Conclusions:

Although freely available mobile applications and text-messaging programs exist, with potential for wide reach, the majority provide only informational support. These programs would benefit from additional study of their usefulness.

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