Lack of breastfeeding support is often cited by mothers as one of the key reasons for premature weaning. The experiences and perceptions of breastfeeding mothers in a range of contexts and their support needs have been studied, but there has been little exploration of the specific breastfeeding topics that women are investigating via social networking sites (SNSs) such as Facebook, and how breastfeeding peer supporters respond to queries about breastfeeding concerns on a SNS.
This online ethnography took place in the Australian Breastfeeding Association's (ABA) closed Facebook groups. These groups have been created for breastfeeding mothers to seek and provide support to their peers. All wall posts, comments and images for 15 of these groups were captured over a four-week period between 21 July and 17 August 2013.
The data were collected on a total of 778 wall posts with a total of 2,998 comments posted into the initial wall posts. Analysis revealed that 165 (21%) of these wall posts were queries and 72 (44%) of the queries were specific breastfeeding questions. Twelve breastfeeding topic areas were identified, and the top three topic areas were further analysed for not only their content but the nature of informational and emotional support provided to the community members.
The closed Facebook groups hosted by the ABA provided both informational and emotional support that appeared to be facilitated by an authentic presence from both trained peer breastfeeding counsellors and other mothers. The group administrators played a vital role in both responding to the queries and overseeing the discussions to ensure they adhered to the ABA's Code of Ethics.