A few months ago a story out of Australia caught my attention. A research study conducted at Queensland University of Technology showed that new mothers who received cell-phone based text-messaging support (also referred to as SMS, which stands for Short Message Service) were four times less likely to stop breastfeeding than those who did not. This collision of technology with nature’s perfect infant nutrition piqued my interest and I wanted to learn more (self disclosure – I’m a bit of a technophile). While details of the study have not yet been published, I was able to talk with an IBCLC who uses SMS, as well as hear the perspectives of several nursing mothers. This post is intended to share this story and also generate a conversation about what other practitioners have experienced using text-messaging to support breastfeeding moms. Please join in the discussion!
An IBCLC’s Perspective
Robin Kaplan, IBCLC and founder of San Diego Breastfeeding Center, LLC, offers mothers the option to communicate with her via SMS after she conducts an initial in-home consultation. She estimates that about 25% of her follow-up communication is through text-messaging, with some clients using it for 100% of their contacts. The nature of Robin’s texts are primarily responding to questions from new mothers (moms can include a photo with the question to help in diagnosing some problems), as well as checking in with mothers to see how they are doing. One of the benefits of text messaging is that it isn’t interruptive, like a phone call may be, and it can be managed from a time perspective (versus not knowing how long a phone call might last). This seems to be important for new mothers, as Robin gets more responses from texting than she does from phone calls. Texting is also conducive to the round-the-clock hours that nursing mothers keep. “They can leave me information any time they want,” says Robin. From a business perspective, she sees texting as time and cost-effective. “It makes a lot of sense!”
“When you have a sleeping baby, or you’re just too tired to get into a long conversation, texting is so convenient,” said texting mother, Tracy. “Robin was able to get straight to the point and offer quick responses to my questions, which were very helpful… Though some might think it’s impersonal, texting is still a conversation and a readily available one at that, I really appreciated the instant gratification.”
Adoptive mother, Danielle, said text-messaging support was a huge help in establishing her breastfeeding practice. “The reason texting worked for me is that my consultant, Robin, was always quick to reply… This [breastfeeding an adopted infant] is a new frontier and being able to text when your baby is asleep in your arms is so helpful… For me, texting as opposed to verbalizing sometimes kept me a bit calmer. I always know I can call if I need to. The ability to have both options, however, was great.”
According to Erin, “Because newborns require so much attention around the clock, texting was the easiest form of communicating with Robin. It allowed me to send her a quick message, an update or ask a question without regard to the hour or any of the long winded social niceties that a telephone conversation would require. By the same token, Robin was able to check in on my progress, offer much needed practical advice and soothe my worries with most welcome words of support.”
On the Bleeding Edge
How does text-messaging fit into healthcare privacy laws that might impact lactation consulting care? This will vary country by country, and many governments are still trying to figure this out. Robin said she is moving towards printing and then deleting text messaging conversations and adding them to patient records. She deletes photos immediately. Having a password lock on your phone is another measure of security. It’s always important to get a mother’s consent before you begin sending text messages.
What has your experience been with adding text-messaging support to your lactation practice? We’d love to hear your stories!