New York, May 2 (IANS) Use of a mobile phone app that provides supportive texts and an online Facebook community can significantly increase the rate of breastfeeding among new mothers, new research has found.

The study results showed that 95 percent of the app users were currently breastfeeding three months after giving birth, compared with 83 percent of the control group.

The same 95 percent were feeding babies breastmilk more than 80 percent of the time, compared with 78 percent of women who hadn't used the app.

"We wanted as many mothers and babies to take advantage of the health benefits of breastfeeding and all babies to be offered human milk as their first food, and we know that women of child-bearing age are in the generation most likely to own a cell phone," said lead study author Maya Bunik from Children's Hospital Colorado, US.

"Cell phones have been shown to be an effective way to increase prescribed use of HIV medication, to help quit smoking and to better manage diabetes. Our pilot study suggests that they also can be useful with breastfeeding support and management," Bunik added.

The study was presented at the ongoing meeting of Pediatric Academic Societies in Baltimore in the US.

The participants began interacting with the MMM app roughly six weeks before their delivery date and continued using it the same length of time after giving birth.

They received five to seven messages from the app as "push notifications" via text each week.

The app was also linked to participants private Facebook page, where informative links, supportive comments and brief videos were posted.

According to researchers, participants who used the app also had greater confidence ratings about breastfeeding issues, such as knowing if their babies were getting enough milk and coping with breastfeeding challenges.