Facebook could be the key to helping African American mothers overcome breastfeeding challenges, according to a new study from the University of Georgia.
Researchers found that mom-to-mom breastfeeding support groups on Facebook were a valued source of support.
“African American mothers more often report lacking community and generational support from mothers or grandmothers to breastfeed, as well as norms that favor formula feeding,” said Dr. Ayanna Robinson, who led the study as a doctoral student at University of Georgia College of Public Health.
And social inequities that can often affect African American communities also influence whether mothers have access to consistent prenatal and lactation specialists.
But Dr. Robinson, a mother herself, began noticing one place that painted a different picture about breastfeeding support among African American mothers – Facebook.
Dr. Robinson wanted to know whether Facebook was providing the extra support African American mothers needed to begin and continue breastfeeding, compared with more traditional forms of breastfeeding support – such as from a health care provider or a family member.
She surveyed 300 mothers who were active in breastfeeding support groups on Facebook and conducted several focus groups to learn about their experience in their Facebook group.
“We found that, on average, women in the Facebook group intended to breastfeed for 18 months, which is a much longer than the rates we typically see in the U.S.,” she said.
Based on focus group findings, Dr. Robinson believes that exposure to other mothers who looked like them gave the mothers she surveyed the confidence to extend the length of time they wanted to breastfeed.Friday Letter Submission, Publish on August 23