Mary Paton Research Award 2015

Nicole Bridges

The faces of breastfeeding support: Experiences of mothers seeking support online

The Australian Breastfeeding Association is delighted to announce Nicole Bridges as the winner of the Mary Paton Research Award for 2015 for her paper The faces of breastfeeding support: Experiences of mothers seeking support online.

In her winning paper, Nicole Bridges sought to understand the experiences of mothers using closed Australian Breastfeeding Association Facebook groups and how these mothers find and share breastfeeding support and information using this forum. Participants reported a sense of community and connectedness as a result of the peer support found within the ABA’s closed Facebook groups. Mothers involved in this study described a feeling of privacy and safety as a result of the closed nature of these groups. Participants also described a variety of ways that they felt supported online. In particular, the group was considered a ‘brains trust’ and illustrates the potential for members to access a wealth of both factual and experiential information, advice and support

The overarching theme identified was support, with four sub-themes that describe the nature of online breastfeeding support within the Facebook environment. These sub-themes are: community, complementary, immediate and information. It was found that social networking sites (SNSs) provide support from the trusted community. It is immediate, it complements existing support or services that ABA provides and also provides practical and valuable information for its users.

In her paper, Nicole states that:

Based on the observations throughout this study, it has become evident that ABA is providing a meaningful and valuable service to its members by supporting the use of SNSs in the form of closed Facebook groups for breastfeeding support and information.