In a new study, published in the Health Informatics Journal, researchers have found that new mothers are increasingly using mobile phone apps to support breastfeeding decisions, sometimes even at a cost.
The study reveals that the objective approach of most infant feeding (IF) apps gives the new mothers a perception of greater control, confidence and efficiency at a time of transition and stress in the early stages of parenting an infant.
Side-affects of mHealth apps
However, the researchers said that the mobile content can also provide a set of potential worries to the mothers. They could be feeling overwhelmed by the information available on the apps, concerns about over-reliance on the app, and even question the app's advice.
Jacqueline Miller from the Flinders University in Australia said: "Overall the women interviewed in the study were positive about using such apps. 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."
These apps are increasingly giving mothers a modern way of tracking aspects of baby care, including feeding regularly, sleep, growth and nappy changes, the researcher added.
Innumerable uses of health apps
According to the study, the mobile health app market, which is highly blooming, is expected to exceed $30 billion by 2020. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has forecast that mHealth apps will have several uses, including interventions and behavior change, disease or condition self-management, data monitoring and e-information provision.
Kaitlyn Dienelt, the co-author of the study, said that this new study demonstrates how important the mobile apps can be in making moms feel encouraged and supported in their breastfeeding practices. The research, which is one of the first studies of its kind, analysed the experience of new mothers, the suitability of information and readability of the mobile app material from an outside perspective to get a clear picture.
Premium versions of free IF apps
There are more than 100 apps that provide assistance to optimal infant feeding available on the market. Many of these apps are free with in-app purchases, or some are purchased of premium versions of free IF apps.
"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, who conducted detailed interviews with nine nursing mothers using eight different IF apps in South Australia over 12 months, said.
She added: "Overall, the participants were positive and some even felt they would have given up on breastfeeding without the app."