Interactive app aims to virtually connect breastfeeding mothers with lactation consultants, improve breastfeeding rates

Feb. 28, 2018

A newly developed proactive app could instantly connect breastfeeding mothers with pediatricians or lactation consultants to help collect data, monitor patients, and provide consultation and support while improving breastfeeding outcomes for new mothers.

Azza Ahmed, an associate professor in Purdue’s School of Nursing, and Jeffrey Brewer, an associate professor of computer and information technology in the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, co-founded LACTOR LLC to commercialize the technology.

LACTOR’s system has two main components—the mother’s portal, where mothers can enter their breastfeeding data and receive notifications, and the lactation consultant’s portal, where mothers’ data is received by experts who can provide support and counsel if requested or needed.

Ahmed said the U.S. has achieved breastfeeding initiation rate based on Healthy People 2020 goals, but there is still a struggle with continuation rates. She said mothers face several challenges when breastfeeding that this app could address.

“The most common problem faced is the inability to latch. If the baby is not latching, they are not getting enough milk, which could result in weight loss or dehydration,” Ahmed said. “It happens often that mothers must come back to the clinic or formula must be introduced early. The inability to latch also could result in hospitalization, sore nipples, discouragement and perceived insufficient milk. Mothers often need confidence to continue breastfeeding due to lack of self-efficacy, self-confidence and social support. This is especially common during the first month after birth, and it is the most critical breastfeeding period.”

Brewer said a web-based intervention could provide continuous monitoring after discharge.

“Our main goal for this technology is to maintain the communication between the mother and the lactation consultant immediately after giving birth and going back home,” he said. “We want to create a connection before mothers leave the hospital so that there’s a virtual connection once they get home and the mothers can feel more confident. This way mothers do not have to call and make an appointment or travel back to a clinic if problems arise. This is highly beneficial in rural areas where access to lactation support is limited.”

Brewer said there are over 100 breastfeeding apps available; however, LACTOR’s provides two-way communication.

A study was conducted using the LACTOR system by 26 breastfeeding mothers over a 30-day period. The study concluded that the system was feasible and acceptable among breastfeeding mothers and a promising tool for maintaining communication between mothers and lactation consultants.

Brewer said the app eventually will incorporate other novel features.

“Eventually our system will have the ability to let the nurse or consultant make phone calls or set up virtual appointments directly with the mothers,” he said. “We would incorporate a video call feature that lets the nurse see what the mother is doing to better determine what the issue might be. Currently the data is checked twice a day but as the app and users grow we could expand to have 24/7 consultation available.”

Ahmed said the technology would be available for license.

Purdue University has the full story

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