A study by Taki et al evaluated 44 Australian infant feeding websites and 46 infant feeding apps on infant feeding from iTunes and Google Play. Using different assessment tools including the health-related website evaluation form (HRWEF), the quality component scoring system (QCSS), suitability assessment of material (SAM), Flesch-Kincaid (F-K), and simple measure of Gobbledygook (SMOG), each website or app was evaluated in four aspects: quality, comprehensibility, suitability, and readability.
The Australian Infant Feeding Guidelines published by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) was also used as a guide to determine the quality and accuracy of the information. The keywords “infant feeding”, “baby feeding”, “breast feeding”, “infant feeding schedule”, “infant formula”, “formula feeding”, “introducing solids”, “introducing baby solids”, “solids and fussy babies”, “introducing solids schedule”, “bottle feeding”, “baby food”, and “baby weaning” were used based on their frequency of use on Google Trends.
The tools rated most of the websites to be of poor quality: 61% with HRWEF and 66% with QCSS. This meant that the majority of websites had insufficient and inaccurate infant feeding information, were written in complex language, not updated, and/or did not provide author credentials and/or reference to other sources. Apps performed even worse; 78% and 91% were rated poor using the same quality assessment and QCSS tools, respectively. These apps had poor navigability, design, color, readability, accessibility, and/or breadth of coverage.
On the bright side, two websites attained a 100% score for comprehensibility using the Infant Feeding Guidelines by NHMRC, and 20% had a superior rating for suitability using SAM. For apps, 78% received a high score for comprehensibility and 15% had superior suitability.
The general recommended readability level for the public is 8th grade or below. The F-K test revealed that 10 websites met this requirement, while SMOG showed 16 websites. Using the same tools, 14 and 20 apps, respectively, were considered to be at the appropriate readability level.
Based on these results, the authors have developed the following suggestions to improve the overall quality of infant feeding apps and websites.
- Improve credibility by including who developed the content (e.g., a medical doctor vs a commercial company).
- Improve quality by using tools like the HONcode when building these resources.
- Have a certified organization endorse apps and websites that are up to standards.
- If the full range of information on the topic is not provided (or not in great depth), external links to credible sources should be included for the convenience of the user to obtain comprehensive information.
While this study listed the infant feeding apps and infant feeding websites evaluated in the appendices, they did not list the individual scores of each evaluated website or app, nor specify which of those were within acceptable standards. However, to get an idea of what apps on infant feeding are available, you can look at some of our previous related pieces on useful and informative apps, such as LactMed, the InfantRisk Center’s app, and Healthy Children. In addition, while this study only examined websites and apps, other methods of assessing infant and maternal care information should not be neglected, such as SMS-based sources like Text4Baby. Finally, although this study focused on infant feeding, the insights on how to develop useful and high quality resources can be applied to other health topics as well.