Women of child-bearing age are some of the most dedicated users of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, and use the Internet in almost every aspect of their lives. Over the past two decades, women have created an intricate virtual network of support to help themselves and each other navigate the challenges associated with mothering and breastfeeding.
In today’s world where online connectivity is a mainstay, and health care questions can be addressed online, it is no surprise that breastfeeding is one of the topics which sends mothers in search of online support. In her first book, The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture published by Praeclarus Press, author Lara Audelo describes how technology has given today’s mothers a way to end the isolation and increase support: anywhere, anytime.
Audelo describes her experience as a new mother, following a long-distance move and her husband’s deployment overseas, “Shortly after my son was born, our little family of three re-located from the East Coast to the West Coast.I found myself in a new place with no friends, a husband who was gone on deployment, a four month-old baby, and still many, many questions as a new mother. When my son was about six months old, I turned to the Internet for breastfeeding support. Before I knew it, I was asking for–and offering–advice to other breastfeeding mothers online.”
Mothers have been using the Internet to help one another since the 1990s, but those born after 1982, whom we refer to as the Millennial Generation, grew up alongside the Internet, and they use technology in almost every aspect of their lives. One recent study found that time spent online increases after women have babies by as much as 44% (McCann & McCulloch, 2012).
Women need support and help more than ever, but often feel alone and afraid because they have no idea what they are doing. With every breastfeeding-related article published, blog post shared, question answered on a Facebook Timeline, or tweet sent through the “Twitterverse,” this information is stored and can be accessed at will when needed by mothers helping them become less isolated and more confident. In less than two decades since women first started communing online, women have built an amazing virtual infrastructure of support with the hope that no mother in need will fall through the cracks.
Lara Audelo, author of The Virtual Breastfeeding Culture, is the mother of two young boys, and a breastfeeding educator, speaker and advocate. She believes increased education for all is the key to helping mothers achieve their individual breastfeeding goals, and is crucial for individuals who are responsible for providing much-needed support to nursing mothers. In addition to writing and speaking, she also does social media freelancing for breastfeeding-related companies. She received her Certified Lactation Education Counselor (CLEC) certification from University of California San Diego (UCSD) in 2010.
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