Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Breastfeeding and Blogging: Exploring the Utility of Blogs to Promote Breastfeeding

Academic journal article American Journal of Health Education

Breastfeeding and Blogging: Exploring the Utility of Blogs to Promote Breastfeeding

Article excerpt

BACKGROUND

Blogs are an example of an online community and social networking site, which have become popular over the past decade. (1)In addition to functioning as a personal online diary, a blog is a web-based location where people come together and socialize. It is a place where the creator (and other registered guests) can compose original text in the form of a post. Posts address many topics, but they usually include personal themes, (2) such as opinions or recent experiences. Users comment in response to the original post, much in the same way newspaper and radio programs produce original pieces and then receive feedback in the form of letters to the editor.

Research evidence suggests that blogs serve the needs of and strengthen existing social networks and can also be a catalyst for developing new connections. (3-5) Indeed, blog creators and registered guests sometimes share a connection independent of their postings and comments (3,4) Papacharissi6 showed that most content on personal blogs was intended to be read by friends and family, groups that already share social connections. Blogs are also capable of bringing groups together to both forge and strengthen new social network bonds. (5,7,8) This happens when individuals participate in a blog that revolves around a common theme (e.g., cancer survivorship), but where the individuals have little or no previous contact or awareness of each other. Either way, one commonality among blogs is that they tend to feature a strong sense of community. (9)

Several different types of blogs exist: (1) personal blogs, representing a lay person's blog on any topic of personal interest; (2) topic or industry blogs, representing authoritative and influential bloggers on a subject area or industry; (3) publicationbased blogs, typically editors or reporters who stimulate discussion of a certain topic; and (4) corporate blogs, representing corporate executives or board members who blog about a single company) (10) Topic or industry blogs "function nearly like an ongoing white paper or keynote speech as if to impart sage wisdom to others who, for example, need or want to know what the state of the subject is, where it's going, and what stands to be gained or lost with or without proper action." (10)(p.35)

Breastfeeding and Behavior Support

Breastfeeding is a health behavior with many documented benefits for both mother and child. In most cases, breastfeeding is optimal for the child's growth. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life is the best and most cost-effective intervention to provide newborns with much needed nutrients and to improve infant and children survival rates. (11) Additionally, mothers that breastfeed decrease their risk for breast cancer. (12)

Despite the empirical support for breastfeeding, rates remain low. (13) Frequently cited psychosocial determinants of breastfeeding include such things as attitudes, (14-17) beliefs about the benefits of breastfeeding, (14,18-20) self-efficacy, (20) social support, (17,18,21,22) and normative beliefs of family members, (14,15,23,24) friends and society. (16,18,19,25) Whereas traditional counseling techniques have not been effective at overcoming many psychosocial barriers, (26) behavior support delivered via blogs may be an effective strategy for tailoring approaches aimed at addressing common psychosocial determinants.

Providing new mothers with adequate behavior support for breastfeeding holds promise in overcoming breastfeeding difficulty. Both informal (family, friends) and professional (health care professionals) social networks aimed at providing social support for breastfeeding have been identified as effective tools for breastfeeding promotion. (27) Indeed, practitioners such as physicians, nurses, midwives and lactation specialists are well positioned to provide meaningful breastfeeding behavior support. (17) Consistent with these findings, Dennis (28) recommended a telephone peer support program to match new mothers with experienced breastfeeding mothers in the same community. …

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