Parents of newborns in Singapore can soon have basic post-natal care information at their fingertips with the development of a mobile application by Researchers from the National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and the National University Hospital.

This cutting-edge application called Home But Not Alone was designed to aid parents with newborn babies in providing appropriate post-natal care on the go, developed by assistant professor Shefaly Shorey from NUS' Alice Lee Centre for Nursing Studies together with a team of researchers.

Application answers questions and provides demonstrations

This free mobile application will be available by next year for download on all the operating systems. It aims to provide information for new parents who may be facing psychological stressors from the uncertainties of caring for their newborn babies.

With the ease of this application, parents can now obtain information about breastfeeding, bathing a baby and more all in their own time. This is attainable via documents, videos and audio clips.

New parents can also ask questions in the application and address any myths or believes regarding care of their babies. For example, the app discredits the belief that babies are allowed to drink water at any age. Studies have shown that, until the age of six months, babies should not be given too much water to drink. The explanation provided is because babies will be reluctant to drink milk if they are already too full from the water.

Ease of information

In a recent media briefing, Prof Shorey said that parents found going back and forth between the maternity ward and the home setting to be quite stressful. This was designed to address the current gap in the continuity of care for new parents and provides extra support to help parents cope with the challenges of parenthood and newborn care.

“New parents, especially, feel overwhelmed by the amount of information given to them by their healthcare providers during their short stay, and some have difficulties retaining the information,” she said. Hence, this applications targets to alleviate their worries.

Zhang Han, a 34-year-old assistant manager who has a one-year-old baby trialled the application and had good reviews for it. “It's good because you are no longer just looking at Google for information but you have professional information,” he said.

Zhang and his wife used the beta version of the mobile application during the first six months of having their babies and expanded their knowledge on matters such as how to swaddle their baby and how to manage their baby’s rashes.

Set to roll out in tertiary hospitals

This Home But Not Alone app was piloted from December 2015 to May 2016. During the trial phase, a total of 126 people, or 63 couples, received educational support via the app. All these couples were then compared to a control group consisting of 62 couples. Parents in the control group obtained standard maternity care delivered by the hospital.

After four weeks of using the applications, parents were surveyed and results showed that a majority of them were more confident in caring for their newborn babies.

Prof Shorey and her team are currently fine-tuning the application to incorporate educational sessions and care guides from the moment of a mother's discovery of pregnancy right until after she has delivered her baby. The team will also include some suggested features from the user feedback prior to testing the app further at a few centres in local tertiary hospitals in the near future.

Prof Shorey also intends to carry out a longer-term research on the post-natal psychoeducational programme to evaluate its efficacy in reducing post-natal depression among parents. MIMS

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