A ‘TripAdvisor’-style app which helps new mothers to locate breastfeeding-friendly places while they are out-and-about has been launched by Newcastle University.Designed to remove some of the anxiety around breastfeeding in public and help new mums to get out-and-about during those first few months, the new ‘ Feed-Finder’ app is used to rate cafes, restaurants and any public places around the world for breastfeeding.
Rated by mums, for mums, each location is assessed according to five key qualities – comfort, hygiene, privacy, baby facilities and affordability.
Dr Madeline Balaam, who created the app with Selina Sutton, Andy Garbett and Edward Jenkins, said the aim was to help make breastfeeding as easy and enjoyable as possible.
Dr Balaam, a computer scientist at Newcastle University with special expertise in interaction design for healthcare, education and wellbeing, came up with the idea while working on a previous project with new mothers learning to breastfeed for the first time.
“The mums I met told me that one of the reasons they were struggling to enjoy breastfeeding was because they found it so isolating. First time mums in particular felt uncomfortable about feeding in public, they didn’t know where they could go that would be breastfeeding friendly and were anxious about being out and about and the baby suddenly needing to feed and not knowing where to go. Some said they rarely left the house in those first few months as they tried to juggle frequent feeds.
“The aim of the app was to take away some of that worry so they could continue to get out and meet their friends and do the things they did before baby came along. The knock-on effect, we hope, is that it helps women to enjoy breastfeeding and continue breastfeeding for longer.”
The ‘Feed-Finder’ app allows user-generated content to be collected and accessed on any smart phone to assist mothers in finding places in public where they are more likely to feel comfortable to breastfeed.
Women can use the app to locate where they are and any places reviewed by other breastfeeding mums will be displayed on the map around her current location. This includes finding out whether the staff are friendly, or whether there are private areas to breastfeed as well as more practical considerations such as space to put your pram without feeling in the way of other customers.
Along with accessing reviews and ratings provided by other mums, a mum can add her own reviews, or even add a new place to the map should she find a gem of a breastfeeding location that isn't already shared. Feed-Finder has also been designed so that it can be used one-handed during breastfeeding, as well as being very easy and intuitive.
Initially designed with the help of 30 mums who have rated public places around Tyne and Wear, Selina says the next step is to raise awareness of the app and get mums across the UK filling in the map.
“This is about getting mums – the experts – to share their experiences and knowledge of what matters when you’re out and about and wanting to breastfeed,” she explains.
“It will only work if people get involved and fill in the map but we really hope it will become a useful tool for breastfeeding mums and support them to be able to fit breastfeeding more easily around their lives.”
First-time mum Vicky Smith (pictured above with baby Tom) says she is passionate about anything that supports women to breastfeed.
Mother to five-month-old Tom, she says breastfeeding for her has been an uphill struggle from the start and being able to get out and meet friends and family has been a vital part of helping her to get through it.
“Very early on I developed mastitis and then a breast abscess so I spent the first six weeks of Tom’s life in and out of hospital,” says Vicky, a paediatrician.
“It was so important to me to breastfeed Tom I was determined not to give up but those early problems meant it was really important for me to feed him regularly.
“I think after the difficult start I would have gone out of my mind if I hadn’t been able to get out and see other mums and talk through the highs and lows of being a first-time parent.
“I had no choice but to feed wherever I happened to be but it’s so much easier and more enjoyable if you’re somewhere you feel relaxed, in a place that makes you feel welcome, and I think something like this app which just makes things a little easier is a really good idea.”
Hope Burch, 11 weeks, is Sophie’s second child. More relaxed this time, Sophie wishes something like this had been available when she had her first daughter, Zoe, two.
“It has been much easier this time around. My first child just seemed to feed and feed and feed all the time. I remember thinking that if I wanted to go out I had to plan two hours ahead and then once I’d left the house I’d be thinking about how long I had before I had to get back again for another feed,” she says.
“I remember one time when I had been sat there feeding all day and I was just completely broken. In desperation I rang the breastfeeding support line. They were brilliant and just talked me through it.
“Breastfeeding is so important but it can also tie you down and being able to get out and meet people who are going through the same thing as you can make such a difference. I think maybe this app will help to give mums the confidence to leave the house.”
published on: 31 July 2013