Why is Breastfeeding Important?

Exclusive breastfeeding means that a baby is fed only breast milk for the first six months of his life, with no additional food or drinks. This is the best nourishment for the baby, who is not even given water.

It minimizes the dangers of infections and diseases. Breast milk includes an edible carbon copy of the mother’s immune system, which a baby’s body uses to protect itself before its own immune system develops. Exclusive breastfeeding is one of the best ways to minimise the chances of a baby getting diarrhea, allergies, pneumonia and suffering from malnutrition, the leading causes of child mortality. The addition of any other food will considerably increase the risks of the same.

Scientific studies have revealed that the healthiest babies are those that have been exclusively breastfed.

Furthermore, it is also considered beneficial for the mother, too. Exclusive breastfeeding helps the new mother to lose weight after delivery. Mothers who breastfeed exclusively are less likely to experience postpartum depression and postpartum hemorrhaging, one of the leading causes of maternal mortality.

According to the Lancet, increasing breastfeeding could save 800,000 children and $300 billion USD every year

Why Aren't Mothers Breastfeeding?

Most mothers do not know about the benefits of breastfeeding. If they do, they do not know how to continue doing it. Mothers don’t have easy access to lactation consultants, since hospitals are rarely staffed adequately. In fact, in Jigawa State, Nigeria, most mothers give birth in their own home. Even if they were to give birth in a hospital, hospitals tend to treat lactation consultants as luxury items and not necessities. Women don’t want to nurse because they feel they don’t have enough help and do not know how to access breastfeeding resources online.

Breastfeeding is a Learned Behavior

With urbanization and the lack of extended families, most first-time mothers have not seen their mothers or relatives breastfeeding. Even worse, from everywhere around them they have been receiving the message that what is normal and modern is bottlefeeding. As young girls, they are given a doll and bottle to play with, and their mothers also probably bottlefed. Formula companies advertise their products to the public, and for many women, this is their only source of information regarding infant feeding. As more deliveries occur in hospitals, more women are influenced by hospital practices that often interfere with breastfeeding. There, they do not receive the necessary support from the health-care team, because health professionals generally lack the knowledge and skills for good clinical management of breastfeeding [1].

In Nigeria, breastfeeding is universal with almost all babies being breastfed, demonstrating a social and political incentive for breastfeeding. However, the practice of EBF is rare with only 17% of children younger than six months being exclusively breastfed.

Solution Overview

Target Root Cause: Education & Supportive Care

Idea One-Liner: App to provide information and breastfeeding support for mothers

Breastfeeding works best when mothers have a knowledgeable and nurturing community to help them work through the inevitable questions and problems, as well as a supportive work environment, but not every mother has this. The app provides a virtual support system and tips for mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding.

There are around 170 million mobile subscriptions in Nigeria. Currently, around 86 percent of the population is using a mobile phone including those in rural areas. The app will be an SMS (text message) and voice-based mobile phone application to account for those without smartphones. Mothers can join simply by texting a given phone number.

The breastfeeding app will be something of a virtual lactation counselor, helping mothers track their breastfeeding, while giving them valuable tips on latching, nutrition, milk production and formula harms. In a study on exclusive breastfeeding in Thailand, the most requested feature was a pump-reminding notification system. These notifications will be sent through SMS.

Proof of Concept

iCow, a mobile phone cow calendar, with the same setup had nearly 60,000 farmers in Tanzania and Ethiopia registered to use the app. (Nigeria has even more smartphones than Kenya).

Moommae, is a breastfeeding promoting mobile-app intervention in Thailand. The app supports Thai women in breastfeeding outside of their homes and in keeping their feeding records. Usability and usefulness assessment of MoomMae demonstrated that MoomMae has a great potential to be a useful self-management tool for breastfeeding mothers in Thailand. Comments on usefulness were relatively positive (56 positive, 9 negative, and 1 neutral). However, there was a negative sentiment towards usability. The proposed mobile SMS app would be redesigned to bypass Moommae's issues.