New Mothers Often Feel Alone and Isolated and Now Use Social Media to Find Breastfeeding Help and Support

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New book, published by Praeclarus Press, describes how mothers use social media to seek support, find information, and to connect with each other. August is World Breastfeeding Month.

New mothers are reaching out to support each other online.

No mother should ever feel alone, or like she doesn’t have anyone to talk to or who will answer her questions. Unfortunately, many new mothers experience precisely that. They are isolated, with no one to help them. In response, new mothers are now reaching out to each other—online. In her new book, The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture, author Lara Audelo describes how technology has given new mothers a way to end the isolation and increase support: anywhere, anytime. Author Lara Audelo describes her experience as a new mother, following a recent move and her husband’s deployment.

"Shortly after my son was born, our little family of three re-located from the East Coast to the West Coast. I found myself in a new place with no friends, a husband who was gone on deployment, a four month-old baby, and still many, many questions as a new mother. When my son was about six months old, I turned to the Internet for breastfeeding support. Before I knew it, I was asking for--and offering--advice to other breastfeeding mothers. Then something unexpected happened: I was making friends in a way that I never had before—online."

The Internet offers support in a unique way. Mothers can take what they want and leave the rest. They can find other mothers online at 2 a.m. when another late-night feeding that has left them feeling ragged. It’s a global community; their 2 a.m. is someone else’s 10 a.m. Mothers might find like-minded women who share many of the same values, who live in a different town, state, or country. Their similarities are enough that they form friendships and keep coming back for more support.

Even if mothers don’t have access to local support groups at hospitals, or there are no breastfeeding mothers who meet regularly where they live, mothers don’t have to be alone. They can find their tribe online. When mothers face a problem, someone will hop in on a moment’s notice to help. Access is instant, and in an increasingly technologically driven world, this is appealing to many mothers. Lara Audelo expressed it like this: “Online support helped me to continue breastfeeding, and on some days my online support group saved my sanity!”

Mothers have been using the Internet to help one another since the 1990s, but those born after 1982, which we refer to as the Millennial Generation, grew up alongside the Internet, and they use technology in almost every aspect of their lives. One recent study found that time spent online increases after women have babies by as much as 44% (McCann & McCulloch, 2012).

Ask any new mother who is at home with a week-old baby how different her life is now, and she probably wouldn’t even be able to articulate the incredible change. It is an awkward time. Mothers need support and help more than ever, but they are often alone and afraid because they have no idea what they are doing. Mothers all define success in their own way, and they all reached out and received valuable support online, whether by using social media, like Facebook and Twitter, or by reading breastfeeding blogs, or belonging to email lists.

With every breastfeeding-related article published, blog post shared, question answered on a Facebook Timeline, or tweet sent through the “Twitterverse,” this information is stored and can be accessed at will when needed by mothers. Then that mother will share it, and so on and so on. In less than two decades, women have built an amazing virtual infrastructure of support with the hope that no mother in need of help will fall through the cracks.

Lara Audelo, author of The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture, is the mother of two young boys, and a breastfeeding educator and advocate. She believes increased education for all is the key to helping mothers achieve their individual breastfeeding goals, and is crucial for individuals who are responsible for providing much-needed support to nursing mothers. She received her Certified Lactation Education Counselor (CLEC) credential from University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 2010.

Praeclarus Press is a small press founded by Kathleen Kendall-Tackett and dedicated to providing excellent resources in women’s health. It is located in Amarillo, Texas.

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Scott Sherwood
since: 04/2009
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Kathleen Kendall-Tackett
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