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Breastfeeding Mothers Use Online Forum to Solicit and Provide Information From Each Other, Study Finds

A study recently found that women are using an online support group where they are seeking logistical information on how to successfully breastfeed, as well as sharing their own knowledge and experience. – a parenting website with widespread users – hosts a breastfeeding support and help community with over 140,000 users and more than one million conversation threads. The purpose of the study, which was co-authored by public health researchers at the Miller School of Medicine and published in the Wiley Online Library, was to understand the information seeking and sharing of its users.  

Throughout the years, knowledge of breastfeeding has diminished and while it can be a preventive intervention for infants and mothers, data shows that there has been a decline in infants who are breastfed. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card, less than 50 percent of infants in the United States are breastfed through three months and about 25 percent are breastfed through six months.

As mothers are now turning to online message boards, listservs, or social media for advice on breastfeeding, the goal of this study was to examine the ways in which mothers use for such purposes. Researchers sought to identify the types of questions posted to the forum, the frequency of topics discussed, and the ways users responded.

From’s breastfeeding support forum, researchers extracted 258 original posts and their 1,445 corresponding comments over a 10-day period in August 2017. To analyze the posts and their corresponding comments, researchers conducted content analyses in two phases – one to classify original posts, such as information seeking, and the other to classify corresponding comments, such as information sharing.

Researchers coded the posts into 15 categories that were reflective of the types of information users were seeking and randomly selected 45 conversations threads across the most popular categories to further understand how users were sharing information.

Users sought information mostly on feeding challenges, supply issues, feeding schedule and duration, pumping, physical health, excretion issues, storing milk, nipple issues, and general breastfeeding questions.

According to the study, participants elicited information from others by using interviewing questions and built a consensus around issues by agreeing with previous posts. They shared their knowledge and personal breastfeeding experiences and also provided encouragement to continue breastfeeding. Generally, mothers sought information from others with similar experiences.

This presents an important resource for breastfeeding mothers and may be an important component for future mothers who want to breastfeed. It may also be an important component of future breastfeeding interventions.

By Amanda Torres
Published on November 5, 2019