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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mothers' perspectives on smartphone use while breastfeeding Tharmaratnam, Thayanthini


Background: Smartphones are increasingly used as a part of individuals’ health experiences, such as breastfeeding. A review of the literature indicated that exploration of the perceptions of women’s smartphone use during their breastfeeding is lacking. Purpose: The aim of this study was to examine women’s perceptions about using smartphones during their breastfeeding experiences. Methods: An interpretive descriptive methodology along with the theoretical framework of symbolic interactionism guided the semi-structured, face-to-face interviews of thirteen participants. Interview transcripts, participant observation, field notes, and reflective journals were analyzed. Results: One theme and four subthemes were constructed from the data. The main theme addressed: navigating smartphone use while breastfeeding. Participants described modifying their smartphone use based on their contexts, such as the prior breastfeeding experiences, support systems, or infant interactions. The first subtheme, raising consciousness, reflected how women were deliberate and thoughtful in their reflections about their smartphone use and their decisions to modify their smartphone use. The second subtheme, grappling with breastfeeding realities attends to how women used their smartphones as a resource to overcome some unexpected breastfeeding difficulties. The third subtheme, vicarious virtual breastfeeding experiences captures participants’ meanings of reading social interactions and observing online content about breastfeeding. The last subtheme, searching for strength through support speaks to how women used their smartphones to access, approach, develop, and interact with breastfeeding support communities, including family, friends and healthcare providers. Conclusion: These findings suggest that women often use their smartphones to make sense of breastfeeding realities, normalize, share their experiences and find support online. Study implications include providing families with online breastfeeding support communities and reliable online breastfeeding resources by healthcare professionals, including nurses. Additionally, this study supports the need for mindful reflection and usage of smartphones including smartphone applications, such as breastfeeding tracking applications. Further research is recommended to explore the barriers and facilitators to virtual healthcare provider breastfeeding support and studying different breastfeeding populations smartphone use (e.g. rural populations) to enhance breastfeeding support services.

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