Key Lessons and Impact of the Growing Healthy mHealth Program on Milk Feeding, Timing of Introduction of Solids, and Infant Growth: Quasi-Experimental Study.

Publication Type:
Journal Article
JMIR Mhealth Uhealth, 2018, 6, (4), pp. e78
Issue Date:
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BACKGROUND: The first year of life is an important window to initiate healthy infant feeding practices to promote healthy growth. Interventions delivered by mobile phone (mHealth) provide a novel approach for reaching parents; however, little is known about the effectiveness of mHealth for child obesity prevention. OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to determine the feasibility and effectiveness of an mHealth obesity prevention intervention in terms of reach, acceptability, and impact on key infant feeding outcomes. METHODS: A quasi-experimental study was conducted with an mHealth intervention group (Growing healthy) and a nonrandomized comparison group (Baby's First Food). The intervention group received access to a free app and website containing information on infant feeding, sleep and settling, and general support for parents with infants aged 0 to 9 months. App-generated notifications directed parents to age-and feeding-specific content within the app. Both groups completed Web-based surveys when infants were less than 3 months old (T1), at 6 months of age (T2), and 9 months of age (T3). Survival analysis was used to examine the duration of any breastfeeding and formula introduction, and cox proportional hazard regression was performed to examine the hazard ratio for ceasing breast feeding between the two groups. Multivariate logistic regression with adjustment for a range of child and parental factors was used to compare the exclusive breastfeeding, formula feeding behaviors, and timing of solid introduction between the 2 groups. Mixed effect polynomial regression models were performed to examine the group differences in growth trajectory from birth to T3. RESULTS: A total of 909 parents initiated the enrollment process, and a final sample of 645 parents (Growing healthy=301, Baby's First Food=344) met the eligibility criteria. Most mothers were Australian born and just under half had completed a university education. Retention of participants was high (80.3%, 518/645) in both groups. Most parents (226/260, 86.9%) downloaded and used the app; however, usage declined over time. There was a high level of satisfaction with the program, with 86.1% (143/166) reporting that they trusted the information in the app and 84.6% (170/201) claiming that they would recommend it to a friend. However, some technical problems were encountered with just over a quarter of parents reporting that the app failed to work at times. There were no significant differences between groups in any of the target behaviors. Growth trajectories also did not differ between the 2 groups. CONCLUSIONS: An mHealth intervention using a smartphone app to promote healthy infant feeding behaviors is a feasible and acceptable mode for delivering obesity prevention intervention to parents; however, app usage declined over time. Learnings from this study will be used to further enhance the program so as to improve its potential for changing infant feeding behaviors.
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