Breastfeeding Education—Yes, There's An App for That

February 17, 2014
By Cindy Hutter

There Is An App For ThatIt may never be as popular as Angry Birds or Candy Crush, but one Ohio hospital is hoping to change the experience of breastfeeding education with a new app.

“Ultimately, the goal of education is behavior change, but education itself does not create behavior change,” says Michele McCarroll, PhD, director of Women's Health Research at Summa Health System. “With this app, we’re working to create a better atmosphere for change.”

Summa Health System (Summa) is one of 89 hospitals participating in Best Fed Beginnings, a national quality improvement project that aims to help hospitals improve maternity care and achieve Baby-Friendly status. The Baby-Friendly designation is granted to facilities that adhere to the evidence-based Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding. As Summa focused in on the Baby-Friendly step about patient education, the team knew they needed to evolve their tactics. They didn’t want to waste more reams of papers on handouts and pamphlets that patients often report they misplace or vaguely remember reading.

Breastfeeding Support Goes Social

From Facebook groups to blogs, hospitals are tapping social media to build a support community for breastfeeding moms. Gigi Lawless, RN, IBCLC, of New Hanover Regional Medical Center, says a community lactation consultant conducts Skype video calls with moms who need breastfeeding support. “It’s great because mothers who had c-sections aren’t really ready to drive or have limited transportation options, but they’re still able to get consultation,” she says. Facebook groups have also been a great supplement to weekly or monthly mother meetings held at the hospital. “It’s been helpful for moms because they can go on Facebook, ask questions and have peers help them through the process,” says Lawless. “It’s nice that after they leave here they have further support from the hospital as well as the community.”

“A lot of our clients told us they were getting information off the internet, which may or may not be accurate. We realized we need to change our approach and try to think of new and relevant ways to reach this new generation of mothers,” says Summa lactation consultant Jennifer Foster, BSN, RN, IBCLC.

Partnering with an e-learning development company, Expand Interactive, Summa developed a breastfeeding education app that contains videos, pictures with voiceovers, quizzes and other interactive elements. Topics range from basics such as the benefits of breastfeeding to more complex topics that help moms solve problems like sore nipples and educational tips on subjects like how to get a better latch. There are also interactive modules on avoiding pacifier use and the practice of skin-to-skin contact—two of the Ten Steps. Users can click on different icons within the app to go down different pathways, making the experience personalized.

The app is not publically available yet. Summa is still refining the patient education materials and testing the patient experience by making the app available on iPads at the hospital. Once the content is complete, McCarroll says they hope to market it to all mothers (pre- and post-natal) at the hospital, as well as make the app publically available for other hospitals to use.

“We realize that if mothers aren’t breastfeeding in the first week, we won’t have mothers breastfeeding three or six months from now,” says McCarroll. “We hope to say every patient can download the app to any device they have. That’s the goal. We want mothers, once they go home, to still have access to this information, even when they are awake and feeding at 3 a.m.”

If you are interested in learning more about the app or want to submit suggestions on development, contact Michele McCarroll, PhD, at: mccarrollm@summahealth.org

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