Breastfeeding and social media: catalyzed by AllerGen

AllerGen investigator Dr. Meghan Azad (University of Manitoba) met AllerGen Highly Qualified Personnel Alessandro Marcon (University of Alberta) at AllerGen’s 2016 Research Conference in Vancouver, BC.

Their encounter catalyzed a unique research project that explored the question of whether or not Instagram users are building communities of support around women who breastfeed.

The answer, the researchers found, is “yes”! Breastfeeding discussions on Instagram were overwhelmingly positive as detailed in their new paper “Protecting, Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding on Instagram,” published in Maternal and Child Nutrition on August 6, 2018—just in time for World Breastfeeding Week.

The research team analyzed 4,089 images and 8,331 comments posted on Instagram with popular breastfeeding hashtags (#breastmilk, #breastisbest, and #normalizebreastfeeding) to assess how users mobilize the social media platform to share perspectives on the subject.

They found that users used the platform to create supportive networks for new mothers to share their experiences with breastfeeding. The researchers suggest that Instagram could potentially offer “new avenues and opportunities to ‘normalize,’ protect, promote, and support breastfeeding more broadly across its large and diverse global online community.”

Instagram is a social networking site where account owners share videos and images online. The app has 700 million active users, the majority of whom are women.

Dr. Azad is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health, and Canada Research Chair in Developmental Origins of Chronic Disease, at the University of Manitoba. She also co-leads the Manitoba site of the Canadian Healthy Infant Longitudinal Development (CHILD) Study.

Alessandro Marcon is a specialist in digital technologies and social media at the University of Alberta’s Health Law Institute.

Press release