Digital innovation supporting mothers in breastfeeding

Madeline Balaam, Lecturer in the School of Computing Science specialising in interaction design for healthcare, education and wellbeing, Newcastle University

FeedFinder is a mobile phone app that supports women in finding, reviewing and sharing places for public breastfeeding. Based upon insights from our research at Newcastle University, it was a direct response to supporting mothers in breastfeeding their infants.

We at Open Lab worked with mothers in and around Newcastle and Gateshead to explore some of the social and cultural issues that hinder women breastfeeding in the UK.  Mothers told us that they felt trapped in the house during the early weeks and months, unsure when their baby might need to be fed next. They found the prospect of breastfeeding in public nerve-wracking, not least because of the possibility of exposure, but also because they were unsure how the public would respond.

Our app works much in the same way as Trip Advisor, encouraging women to leave reviews for places where they have breastfed, as well as add new venues when they breastfeed somewhere that isn’t already listed on the map.

It is free to download both for iOS and Android and since its release in 2013 it has registered over 4,000 users, who have collectively mapped and reviewed over 2000 locations in the UK. Adoption in the North East has been particularly good, with the region currently listing 325 venues and 551 reviews.

We are extremely proud that several NHS Trusts now use and recommend FeedFinder to new mothers as part of their community midwifery service. Over the last few years we’ve heard from women who have told us the app has helped them plan for, and feel confident about, their first public feeds.

It really helped the first time I knew I was going to go into town that I could have a look at the different places and go, “Right, John Lewis is rated really well, I’m going to go to John Lewis.”…So it really helped to know where was good.

We have recently analysed FeedFinder’s reviews, finding that 85% of the experiences mapped by women tell of a positive public breastfeeding experience.  The UK is supportive of breastfeeding women and we will be doing our best to make sure this message is heard loud and clear.

New mum Vicky Smith with Tom, five months old, from Newcastle, testing out the FeedFinder app.