As part of an eight week pilot project led by Associate Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett, from QUT’s School of Advertising Marketing and Public Relations and Dr Danielle Gallegos, from QUT’s School of Public Health, 130 mums across Australia were given breastfeeding support via SMS.
The SMS was also linked to the counselling service offered by the Australian Breastfeeding Association, which offers free telephone assistance about breastfeeding for new mothers.
“The SMS service aimed to increase breastfeeding rates among new mums by providing a direct link with women and offering support, encouragement and advice when needed,” Professor Russell-Bennett said.
“The messages were considerate of women’s feelings. They weren’t judgemental, they avoided guilt, stereotyping and acting as if breastfeeding was easy and natural.”
Professor Russell-Bennett said at the beginning of the study 83 per cent of women taking part fully breastfed their newborns, compared with the national average of 62 per cent.
“After completing the eight week program, there was only a four per cent decrease in women who were fully breastfeeding. This compares with a decline in the national average of 16 per cent (down to 46 per cent).”
Professor Russell-Bennett said the SMS program proved successful in encouraging women to continue breastfeeding, resulting in significantly improved breastfeeding rates.
“Women who participated in the study said they felt reassured by the text messages received,” she said.
“Many women said they looked forward to receiving the messages as it made them feel like they were part of a group.
“They also said the messages offered information ‘that told me things were normal’.
“Many women who find they are struggling with breastfeeding feel like they are failing, but by receiving the text messages they get the support they need.”
Dr Gallegos said while the study sought to increase breastfeeding rates, it also aimed to empower women to make the “right” feeding choice for their child.
“Ultimately if women choose not to fully breastfeed, that is OK. But what we want to happen is to see women make the right decision for the right reasons, without feeling guilty,” Dr Gallegos said.
Dr Gallegos said the research team, also made up of Dr Josephine Previte from the University of Queensland, was hoping to secure additional funding to expand the project and offer the SMS service to more new mums in the future.
The study was funded by the Queensland Government Gambling Community Benefit Fund.
– Sandra Hutchinson, QUT media officer, 07 3138 2999 or firstname.lastname@example.org
– Ian Eckersley, QUT media manager, 07 3138 2361 or email@example.com
**A high resolution photo of Associate Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett and Dr Danielle Gallegos is available for media use
Associate Professor Rebekah Russell-Bennett (back) and Dr Danielle Gallegos