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Pregnant woman working with smartphoneExpectant parents Queena Zhang and Todd Liu check out the When You Need It app following its release Thursday.

Breastfeeding app to aid in improving infant health

Two UWindsor computer science students who developed an app to give mothers reliable information on breastfeeding say they are very happy to have contributed something useful to the community.

David MacMillan and Shane Peelar, master’s students supervised by professor Bob Kent, programmed When You Need It to run on Android and iOS platforms. The project is a partnership of the Building Blocks for Better Babies prenatal nutrition program, the Faculty of Nursing, and the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, funded by a provincial grant.

The app provides answers to common questions about breastfeeding and allows parents to track feedings, diaper changes, and records of their baby’s growth. Its features reflect consultation with women attending Building Blocks classes. The development team added a quiz, which respondents said would be fun—and help them track their learning.

“We spoke to mothers in our community and learned the difficulties they were having,” says Peelar. “It’s nice to have something we could contribute. It is relevant.”

MacMillan says he learned from the experience, and not just because it was his first time programming for the iPhone.

“I always sort of knew breastfeeding was better for babies,” he says, “but I didn’t know how many advantages there are.”

He says he is proud to have played a role in creating an authoritative source of information for new mothers: “This is something we can look at and say ‘We did this’.”

Nursing professor emeritus Mary Louise Drake, chair of the Building Blocks program, praised the students’ work and says the app is a perfect fit for the program’s mandate.

“It’s an adjunct to pre-natal care,” she says. “We provide leadership to help women budget properly and eat properly. Helping them breastfeed properly is the next logical step.”

Debbie Silvester, manager of family health for Windsor-Essex County Health Unit, praised the app’s colourful photos, helpful diagrams and engaging video elements. Now the work begins of introducing it to an appropriate audience.

The health unit is already promoting its use through social media channels, says Silvester. Next up will be materials distributed through physician’s offices, hospital maternity centres, and prenatal classes.

The When You Need It app is available free from Google Play for Android, and from iTunes for iOS devices.