Abstract: ECPN Student Poster Contestant: "Am I Doing This Wrong?” Online Information Seeking and Sharing Practices of Breastfeeding Mothers (Society for Prevention Research 27th Annual Meeting)

500 ECPN Student Poster Contestant: "Am I Doing This Wrong?” Online Information Seeking and Sharing Practices of Breastfeeding Mothers

Thursday, May 30, 2019
Pacific D/L (Hyatt Regency San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Cynthia Lebron, MPH, Ph.D. Student, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Daphne Portacio, MPH, Research Associate, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Lucia Alvarez, BA, Student, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Sara St. George, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Miami, Miami, FL
Introduction: As breastfeeding became less common in the 20th century, generations of knowledge around this health behavior were diminished. Now, as mothers seek out information around breastfeeding, many are turning to online message boards, listervs, or social media for advice. Online networking allows mothers to connect with others sharing their same life transition. Babycenter.com is a parenting website with widespread use among mothers. Its “Breastfeeding Support and Help” community forum is one of its most popular groups with almost 140,000 users and over a million conversation threads. The purpose of this study is to examine an online support forum to understand the information seeking and sharing practices of its users.

Methods: We extracted a total of 258 original messages and 1,445 corresponding comments from Babycenter.com’s breastfeeding support forum posted over a 10-day period in August 2017. Using content analysis, we coded the 258 original messages into 15 categories reflective of the types of information users were seeking. We then randomly selected 45 conversation threads (including the original message and all its corresponding comments) across the nine most popular categories and developed a separate codebook to generate themes reflective of what (content) and how (process) users were sharing information on the online support forum.

Results: The nine most popular breastfeeding topics for which users sought out information included feeding challenges, supply issues, feeding schedule and duration, pumping, physical health, excretion issues, storing milk, nipple issues, and general breastfeeding questions. With regard to the content of information sharing, three themes emerged: knowledge, experience, and encouragement. Users shared their knowledge through advocacy (e.g., providing arguments in favor of breastfeeding) and resources (e.g., providing suggestions for books, websites). They shared their experience through providing instructions (i.e. explicit directives, advice to seek medical help) and reviews of breastfeeding equipment. They shared encouragement through comments such as, “you’re doing great.” With regard to the process of information sharing, an additional two themes emerged: interviewing questions and agreeing with previous posts. Users asked others to clarify their comment or expand on their questions so as to provide better advice. They also built consensus using the forum by agreeing with other comments.

Conclusions: Online support forums are actively being used by breastfeeding mothers seeking information from other mothers who have experienced similar situations. Social networking is an important resource for breastfeeding mothers and may therefore be strategically integrated into future breastfeeding interventions to increase rates of breastfeeding.