Deakin University
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Factors influencing engagement and behavioral determinants of infant feeding in an mHealth program: qualitative evaluation of the Growing healthy program

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posted on 2017-12-01, 00:00 authored by Eloise LitterbachEloise Litterbach, Georgie RussellGeorgie Russell, S Taki, E Denney-Wilson, Karen CampbellKaren Campbell, Rachel LawsRachel Laws
BACKGROUND: Infant feeding practices, including breastfeeding and optimal formula feeding practices, can play a role in the prevention of childhood obesity. The ubiquity of smartphone ownership among women of childbearing age provides important opportunities for the delivery of low-cost, broad reach parenting interventions delivered by mobile phone (mHealth or mobile health interventions). Little is known about how parents engage with mHealth programs targeting infant feeding and how such programs might influence infant feeding practices. OBJECTIVE: The objectives of this study were to explore participant views on (1) factors influencing engagement with the Growing healthy program, an mHealth program targeting healthy infant feeding practices from birth to 9 months of age, and (2) the ways in which the program influenced behavioral determinants of capability, opportunity, and motivation for breastfeeding and optimal formula feeding behaviors. METHODS: Semistructured, telephone interviews were conducted with a purposeful sample (n=24) of mothers participating in the Growing healthy program. Interviews explored participants' views about engagement with the program and its features, and the ways the program influenced determinants of infant feeding behaviors related to breastfeeding and optimal formula feeding. The interview schedule was informed by the Capability, Opportunity, Motivation, and Behavior (COM-B) model. RESULTS: Participants reported that engagement fluctuated depending on need and the degree to which the program was perceived to fit with existing parenting beliefs and values. Participants identified that the credibility of the program source, the user friendly interface, and tailoring of content and push notifications to baby's age and key transition points promoted engagement, whereas technical glitches were reported to reduce engagement. Participants discussed that the program increased confidence in feeding decisions. For breastfeeding mothers, this was achieved by helping them to overcome doubts about breast milk supply, whereas mothers using formula reported feeling more confident to feed to hunger and satiety cues rather than encouraging infants to finish the bottle. Participants discussed that the program provided around-the-clock, readily accessible, nonjudgmental information and support on infant feeding and helped to reinforce information received by health professionals or encouraged them to seek additional help if needed. Participants reflected that their plans for feeding were typically made before joining the program, limiting the potential for the program to influence this aspect of motivation. Rather, the program provided emotional reassurance to continue with current feeding plans. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings suggest that engagement with the program was influenced by an interplay between the program features and needs of the user. Participants reported that the program enhanced confidence in feeding decisions by providing a 24/7 accessible, expert, nonjudgmental support for infant feeding that complemented health professional advice. It is likely that interventions need to commence during pregnancy to maximize the impact on breastfeeding intentions and plans.



JMIR mMhealth Uhealth





Article number



1 - 12


JMIR Publications


Toronto, Ont.





Publication classification

C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal; C Journal article

Copyright notice

2017, Eloise-Kate Litterbach, Catherine G Russell, Sarah Taki, Elizabeth Denney-Wilson, Karen J Campbell, Rachel A Laws