The Use of and Experiences With Telelactation Among Rural Breastfeeding Mothers
Secondary Analysis of a Randomized Controlled Trial
Published in: Journal of Medical Internet Research, Volume 21, Issue 9, e13967 (September 2019). doi: 10.2196/13967
Posted on RAND.org on November 17, 2020
Telelactation services connect breastfeeding mothers to remotely located lactation consultants through audio-visual technology and can increase access to professional breastfeeding support in rural areas.
The objective of this study was to identify maternal characteristics associated with the demand for and use of telelactation and to describe visit characteristics.
We conducted a descriptive study within the context of a randomized controlled trial. Participant survey data and vendor electronic medical record data were used to assess video call characteristics like timing, duration, topics discussed, and participant satisfaction. Recruitment occurred from 2016–2018 at a rural critical access hospital in Pennsylvania. The 102 women enrolled in the study were given access to unlimited, on-demand video calls with lactation consultants through a mobile phone app and were tracked for 12 weeks following their postpartum hospitalization.
A total of 94 participants out of 102 recruits (92%) participated in the final, 12-week survey assessment were included in the analysis. Of those, 47 (50%) participants reported participating in one or more video calls, and 31 (33%) completed one or more calls that included a substantive discussion of a breastfeeding challenge. Participants who used telelactation (21/31, 68%; P=.02) were more likely to be working at 12 weeks postpartum compared to others (26/63, 41%), were less likely (12/31, 39%; P=.02) to have prior breastfeeding experience on average compared to nonusers (41/63, 65%), and were less likely to have breastfed exclusively (16/31, 52%; P<.001) prior to hospital discharge compared to mothers who didn't use telelactation services (51/63, 81%). Most video calls (58/83, 70%) occurred during the infant's first month of life and 41% (34/83) occurred outside of business hours. The most common challenges discussed included: breast pain, soreness, and infection (25/83, 30%), use of nipple shields (21/83, 25%), and latch or positioning (17/83, 24%). Most telelactation users (43/47, 91%) expressed satisfaction with the help received.
Telelactation is an innovation in the delivery of professional breastfeeding support. This research documents both demand for and positive experiences with telelactation in an underserved population.