The Efficacy of Text-Based Mentoring for Postpartum Mothers: A Pilot Study
Technology-based outreach offers promise for providing support to a broad population of postpartum mothers while keeping costs low. However, research on the efficacy of this approach is scarce. We conducted a pre-registered randomized pilot trial of the effects of a novel technology-based approach for supporting postpartum mothers – via text-based mentoring – from infant’s birth through 18 months.
Mothers (n = 201) were recruited at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, PA in the days immediately following delivery. Treatment mothers were matched with volunteer mentors who communicated with them entirely via text messages. Control mothers received monthly one-way texts on basic safety topics. Measures were collected via hospital records and mother surveys. We estimated treatment effects on mothers’ parenting stress, mental health, knowledge of child development, engagement in language and literacy activities, and child milestones at 4- and 18-months postpartum. We used a systematic coding approach and simple descriptive statistics to analyze the treatment mother-mentor texting transcripts.
We found no statistically significant impacts on targeted outcomes. However, impacts for some outcomes were meaningfully large (> 0.2 SDs). Analyses of texting transcripts showed that most mothers stayed engaged for the full 18-month study period and that mother-mentor pairs primarily discussed maternal wellbeing and child-focused topics.
Conclusions for Practice
Postpartum mothers will engage with mentors in a text-based mentoring program around important maternal and child health topics. More research and development on technology-based supports for parents in the early childhood years is needed.