Field Notes

Online Breast-Feeding Communities Benefit New Moms

Social media can positively influence attitudes, knowledge, and behavior associated with breast-feeding, according to a new study from the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). Breast-feeding support groups on social media create a sense of community for new moms to share experiences and support each other in the breast-feeding practice and could be considered pillars of encouragement for new moms.

“We’ve known that mothers seek support for breast-feeding through a variety of channels,” says Kara Skelton, PhD, a graduate of the UAB School of Education department of human studies. “We wanted to know whether social media support groups made a difference during the postpartum period for a mother. We saw that moms are comfortable asking questions and discussing important issues in a social media setting.”

There was a strong emphasis within these virtual communities on normalizing breast-feeding and empowering breast-feeding mothers. The study, published in JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting, shows these social media communities are a resource for women to share experiences related to breast-feeding.

New moms may be more comfortable communicating their experiences, asking questions, and seeking out support within social media groups. As a result, moms are more confident in breast-feeding their child and challenges can be addressed within this highly trusted group in real time.

Specific topics that came up in the groups include breast-feeding in public, excessive pumping, continued breast-feeding, cobreast sleeping, and night nursing.

“Mothers in these groups really opened up and created trust-based relationships, allowing for honest discussion,” Skelton says. “The community of women who are going through the same situation creates a sense of empathy and compassion toward each other.”

Participants in the study were impressed with the reliability of the information found in the pro-breast-feeding online community and the real-time information they were able to have on hand. For example, a mother struggling with a particular situation in the early morning hours was able to access the community for support from other moms who also were struggling at that exact moment.

“There needs to be a shift in the way women receive health information,” Skelton says. “Social media continues to become more and more powerful and a primary form of communication. Our question is now focused on integrating health care professionals and organizations into the online conversation.”

— Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham


Water Composition Impacts Health Benefits of Tea

Here’s to sipping a cupful of health: Green tea steeped in bottled water has a more bitter taste, but it has more antioxidants than tea brewed using tap water, according to new Cornell University food science research published in Nutrients.

In tests conducted at Cornell’s Sensory Evaluation Center, consumers liked green tea brewed using tap water more than using bottled water, because it produced a sweeter taste. “But, when steeped in bottled water, the green tea contained about double the amount of the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG)—which makes it more bitter than tea brewed with tap water,” says Robin Dando, PhD, a Cornell associate professor of food science.

“If you’re drinking green tea for its health properties, you should be using bottled water,” Dando says. “If you’re drinking tea for taste, tap water is better.”

A panel of more than 100 consumers couldn’t taste the difference between black tea brewed with either tap or bottled water.

“The average consumer of black tea isn’t able to tell the difference. Whether it was tap water or bottled water, the taste differences are too subtle,” says graduate student Melanie Franks, the study’s lead author. Franks is a tea specialist who once taught chefs at the International Culinary Institute (formerly known as the French Culinary Institute, founded by the late Julia Child).

Dando believes the normal, everyday minerals in tap water—such as calcium, iron, magnesium, sodium, and copper—are the products that result in lower levels of EGCG in green tea.

“Bottled water—where calcium or magnesium have been filtered out and where the iron concentration is brought down a notch—is able to extract the EGCG more efficiently,” Dando says. “With purer water, you get more health benefits out of the tea.”

— Source: Cornell University