Original Research Obstetrics| Volume 2, ISSUE 3, 100143, August 2020

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Impact of a novel smartphone application on low-income, first-time mothers’ breastfeeding rates: a randomized controlled trial


      Low-income women are less likely to exclusively breastfeed at postpartum day 2 compared with high-income women, but focus groups of low-income women have suggested that on-demand videos on breastfeeding and infant behavior would support exclusive breastfeeding beyond postpartum day 2. Smartphone applications provide on-demand video.


      This study aimed to determine whether a novel smartphone application—Breastfeeding Friend—increases breastfeeding rates for low-income, first-time mothers.

      Study Design

      This double-blinded randomized trial recruited low-income, first-time mothers at 36 weeks’ gestation. Consenting women received a complimentary Android smartphone and internet service before 1:1 randomization to Breastfeeding Friend or a control smartphone application. Breastfeeding Friend was created by a multidisciplinary team of perinatologists, neonatologists, lactation consultants, and a middle school teacher and was refined by end-user focus groups. Breastfeeding Friend contained on-demand education and videos on breastfeeding and newborn behavior, tailored to a fifth-grade reading level. The control smartphone application contained digital breastfeeding handouts. The primary outcome was exclusive breastfeeding at postpartum day 2; secondary outcomes were breastfeeding rates until 6 months postpartum and patient-reported best breastfeeding resource. Primary statistical analyses compared outcomes between study groups through intention-to-treat analysis; prespecified secondary analyses did so per protocol. A total of 170 women (85 per arm) were needed to determine whether Breastfeeding Friend increased exclusive breastfeeding at postpartum day 2 from 34% (known baseline) to 56%.


      A total of 253 women were approached; 170 women enrolled. Most participants were black, with more than half reporting annual household incomes of less than $25,000. Exclusive breastfeeding rates at postpartum day 2 were low and similar among Breastfeeding Friend and control smartphone application users (n=30 [36.6%] vs n=30 [35.7%]; relative risk, 1.02; 95% confidence interval, 0.068–1.53). Breastfeeding rates until 6 months postpartum were also similar between study groups: the rate of exclusive breastfeeding was 8.3% (n=5) and 10.4% (n=7) in the Breastfeeding Friend and control smartphone application groups, respectively (relative risk, 0.8; 95% confidence interval, 0.27–2.38). At 6 weeks postpartum, most Breastfeeding Friend smartphone application users (n=34 [52.3%]) rated their smartphone application as providing the best breastfeeding support. Excluding women who did not use their study smartphone application (Breastfeeding Friend, n=18 [21.4%]; control smartphone application, n=9 [10.6%]) did not affect outcomes.


      Neither of the smartphone applications improved breastfeeding rates among low-income, first-time mothers above the known baseline rates, despite user perception that Breastfeeding Friend was the best breastfeeding resource at 6 weeks postpartum. By demonstrating the feasibility of smartphone application–based interventions within a particularly high-needs population, our research supports efforts in obstetrics to examine whether mobile health improves peripartum health outcomes.

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