It’s one of the most natural and nurturing images we can conjure of the human experience.
A mother cradling a breastfeeding baby.
But there’s a lot of work that goes into making so serene a scene. A lot of trial and error, a lot of patience and long nights. And sometimes, for all the best efforts of both mom and baby, things just don’t run smoothly.
The truth is two-thirds of women have trouble breastfeeding, or are unable to breastfeed for as long as they’d like.
Further compounding the problem are the twin stresses of the expectations mothers face around breastfeeding, and the fact that lack of sleep and an irregular schedule can make it hard to reach out for support.
That’s what makes the ready-when-you-are technology of video conferencing a valuable tool in helping mother and baby make the most of their nascent relationship.
Remote Breastfeeding Aid Backed by Research
The science suggests video conferencing can be an effective way of helping women deal with any breastfeeding problems they encounter.
A tele-lactation pilot project staged in Indiana found that following up an in-hospital visit from a lactation nurse with regular remote meetings online reduced the anxiety women felt about breastfeeding and gave them access to breastfeeding support they wouldn’t otherwise have received.
Similarly, a 2012 study published in the Journal of Human Lactation, found that women felt comfortable talking about breastfeeding concerns with an expert via video conferencing, and that the use of remote services was a feasible way to support mothers in their homes.
A Swedish study also found video conferencing was a helpful way for parents who were discharged early from the hospital to gain confidence with breastfeeding and to transition into parenthood…
What to Do When Help Is Miles Away
Traditionally, women with young children have been supported by all manner of networks built into the healthcare system and local community organizations.
But for women in remote and regional areas, and for those whose hectic lifestyles and large families make it hard to regularly attend meetings in person, there’s a bit of a hole in the system.
Furthermore, in-person social support is obviously of value, the CDC recently reported that 11 states had a shortage of certified lactation consultants.
All of which points to a need for women to be able to better access help from their own homes.
Luckily, all the necessary tech is already on hand to do just that.
On mom’s side of things all you really need is an affordable VC camera that will deliver HD visuals over a standard broadband connection. You’ll need the HD because you want to give your health professional as clear a look as possible at what is going on between mom and baby. These sorts of one-on-one HD webcams are now available for less than $100, and most install with simple plug-and-play auto loading.
And there’s already plenty of work being done on the health professional side to make it easy for new moms to get help via video conferencing.
The Future of Telehealth for Breastfeeding Moms
In addition to the mountains of smartphone apps that connect doctors with patients via video chat, there are also some new video conferencing solutions currently operating in major hospitals that could be repurposed to help breastfeeding moms.
VC pioneer VIDYO has recently helped install video conferencing products that connect neurologists with stroke patients presenting at emergency departments in less than 10 minutes. The service gives remote hospitals a roster of on-call specialists who can diagnose patients and advise on treatment just like any major metropolitan hospital.
In a more long-term setting, the University of Maryland Comprehensive Cancer Center features a suite of video conferencing rooms that allow doctors and patients to stay in touch in between on-site visits, and monitor the day-to-day fluctuations of treatment and recovery.
If these kinds of technologies were incorporated into postnatal care, breastfeeding women would have an on-demand support system to help them through difficult moments as they occur, like a 24-hour nursing helpline using video conferencing.
App latchME has already started down this road, though the current platform is closely connected to Los Angeles, and acts as more of a referral service to put women in touch with breastfeeding experts and sometimes telehealth services. It’s like Yelp or Uber for breastfeeding.
But the idea is right. Under a more developed service, women could connect with lactation experts no matter where they reside across the country, and visually demonstrate the way baby is or isn’t attaching. VC systems could be set up in the 24-hour maternity wards that operate out of most major hospitals, and video calls for help could be routed across the country to spread the burden.
Or the service could be built around the social support groups mentioned earlier, giving women someone to talk to and share their experiences with, without having to pack and transport the three-ring circus that contains everything baby needs on the road.