Telelactation via Mobile App: Perspectives of Rural Mothers, Their Care Providers, and Lactation Consultants

Telemed J E Health. 2019 Sep;25(9):853-858. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2018.0113. Epub 2018 Sep 13.


Background: Rural-urban disparities exist in breastfeeding rates and availability of lactation support. Direct-to-consumer (DTC) telelactation that uses two-way video through personal devices has the potential to increase access to international board-certified lactation consultants (IBCLCs) in rural settings that lack them. This study describes the feasibility and acceptability of DTC telelactation for rural mothers. Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews among various stakeholders involved in a study exploring the impact of telelactation through mobile phone app in rural Pennsylvania. Interviewees included mother participants assigned to receive telelactation (n = 17), IBCLCs employed by the telelactation vendor (n = 7), and nurses (n = 2) and physicians (n = 1) caring for mother participants at the recruitment hospital. Thematic content analysis was used to analyze qualitative data. Results: Interviewees reported that telelactation was convenient and efficient, provided a needed service in rural areas lacking breastfeeding support services, and increased maternal breastfeeding confidence. Telelactation was noted to have several advantages over in-person and telephone-based support. Barriers to use included maternal reluctance to conduct video calls with an unknown provider, preference for community-based breastfeeding resources, and technical issues including limited WiFi in rural areas. Conclusions: Among rural women who experience inequitable access to qualified breastfeeding support resources, DTC telelactation appears to be an acceptable delivery model for lactation assistance.

Keywords: behavioral health; e-health; pediatrics; technology; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding / trends*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Pediatric
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Lactation / physiology
  • Male
  • Maternal Health*
  • Mobile Applications / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Education as Topic / methods*
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration
  • Rural Population
  • Self-Help Groups / organization & administration
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • United States