Cowaramup nurse develops app to help breastfeeding mums with the HelpMe Feed Foundation

Busselton child health nurse Karina Ayers, mother of nine Melody Hawkins and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam.
Busselton child health nurse Karina Ayers, mother of nine Melody Hawkins and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam.

Cowaramup child health nurse Karina Ayers has been the clinical lead in a global project with the HelpMe Feed Foundation which developed an app that gives health professionals a tool to help breastfeeding mums 24/7.

The foundation hopes to improve the number of babies who reach the World Health Organisation's recommended six months of age exclusive breastfeeding benchmark. In Australia, only 15 per cent of babies reach that target.

The app has already been adopted by health professionals and mothers in other countries around the world and was launched in Western Australia on September 18, 2020.

Designed to bridge the gap between face-to-face consultations, the app is provided free to parents through their health professionals.

Over several years, Ms Ayers volunteered her time to support thousands of mothers who face new parenting challenges through the app's innovative design.

With secure communication tools and a comprehensive library of 1000's of high quality, relevant videos and resources, it covers every step of a breastfeeding journey.

Ms Ayers said so many times she had emailed a parent a poor-quality video from YouTube and told her to skip until 3.15 minutes, watch those five seconds then stop.

"With HelpMe Feed, not only do I know the video is high quality, but I know a parent is only seeing what is relevant to her and her baby," she said.

"Likewise, with doctor Google, internet resources tend to be a fire hose approach, which can overwhelm and confuse new mothers, lowering their confidence to face challenges.

"I really wanted to help solve something that was such a unique problem.

"A lot gets in the way of the natural process of breastfeeding with people being in and out of hospitals and getting lots of different advice.

"Nurses are really busy on the frontline and not often is technology designed for them - this app is designed for child health nurses, midwives, lactation consultants and someone who works closely with mums' breastfeeding."

The technology took more than three years to develop with many years before that brainstorming different ideas.

Ms Ayers helped build the content and information that is available to health professionals so they could hand mothers a short form video that would help them understand a particular aspect of breastfeeding specific to them.

Mother of nine Melody Hawkins said she had breastfed all her children including two sets of twins.

"It has been a journey and I have been able to feed quite well," she said.

"I love the idea of this app because it is what a lot of mums need.

"It is normally in the middle of the night when you need the most help and you cannot always call health professionals, at night you need something you can easily access."

Mother of three Amy Wyle said it was particularly important for mums in regional areas to have access to an app with breastfeeding information.

"While we are in Busselton with good facilities we are still quite isolated in some ways," she said.

"I live on a farm 10 kilometres from the closest anything and a lot of people are further away, but it is not just regional areas.

"It does not matter where you are at 2am you may not necessarily have access to someone who can help you, this app will be amazing.

"When you are in hospital you get a lot of people with a lot of different opinions even if they are all midwives, they have different ideas on how to make breastfeeding work.

"When you get home you have all these things going around in your head and you do not know what to do with that and it is a matter of consolidating that information when you get home.

"The fact you can completely personalise the app to the person who the health professional is interacting with is just incredible because you are not looking for random information, you are looking at information which is specific to your journey and your situation.

"This time around I have twins and it is a different journey to what I had when I had a singleton, so if I can have information specific to twins then that is more helpful because there is even less information around."

Mother of two Sarah Crisp said the app would be a huge help to mothers knowing they had the correct information and not random information from Google.

"I am actually bottle feeding now and not breastfeeding because I struggled a lot and had a child who did not want to latch, it has been a long ride," she said.

Vasse MLA Libby Mettam attended the launch and said a lot of work had been undertaken to create the app over the last six years.

"We are seeing this unique and important technology being taken up for the benefit of mothers on the Eastern States and it is hoped we see support from the government to get trials happening in WA as well," she said.

"We know the take up of lactation is around 92 per cent in WA which is good, but after six months that falls dramatically to about 15 per cent.

"Utilising technology is another tool to encourage women to breastfeed and give them that support 24/7 is really important particularly in regional WA.

"The wonderful thing about his technology is that it connects mums, at a very critical time in their life as a new mother, with community coaches and lactation consultants, potentially anywhere in the world.

"Karina deserves to be congratulated for the work she has done in advocating and pushing for this technology with her team in the Eastern States and San Fran Cisco.

"In part this is a Western Australian innovation that has significant health benefits particularly to regional WA and it deserves to be supported."

If health professionals would like to try the app please visit helpmefeed.org.

This story Cowaramup nurse clinical lead in global project to help breastfeeding mums first appeared on Busselton-Dunsborough Mail.