Can Mobile Technology Address the Customer Experience of Shame: An Irish Breastfeeding Experience

Project dates: 2015 - 2019

Breastfeeding rates in Ireland are well below those of their European neighbours. Currently just over half of mothers (56%) initiate breastfeeding in Ireland compared to 81% in the UK and over 90% in Scandinavian states. However, there is potential for 75% of mothers to breastfeed in Ireland if they were given the proper support, a culture of breastfeeding and a greater acceptance of it in public (Baker, 2014).

Breastfeeding may be influenced not only by the mother’s own attitudes and beliefs, but also by her perceptions of what other people think. It has also been argued that breastfeeding problems are often rooted in cultural beliefs and practices. Religion, especially in Ireland where people are very devout, is a key influence on how the body is perceived  in society, and where shame and guilt are associated with a bodily act it is discouraged.

One approach was to use mobile technology to address barriers such as embarrassment or shame associated with breastfeeding. Mobile technology provides low cost, efficient, personalised support which is important given that support services in Ireland after the baby is 6 weeks old are limited and often costly. Although MumBubConnect found a positive response to a personalised SMS social marketing campaign in Australia, it was not known whether this success can be replicated in Ireland due to the different cultural and religious values.

The objective of this Masters research project was to identify the cultural and religious barriers for breastfeeding Irish mothers and examine how social marketing and technology can be used to enhance breastfeeding behaviours and encourage new mums to breastfeed for longer periods of time.

Qualitative research consisting of 40 interviews was conducted in order to gain a deeper understanding into the challenges facing Irish women in feeding their infants.  Specifically this research investigated how religious norms and exposure of the body plays a part in women’s unwillingness to breastfeed and how a social marketing mobile phone intervention could help address these barriers.

Key Findings:

  • Customer experience dimensions have an additive effect
  • The customer experience of shame is triggered by cultural norms; and,
  • The type of interaction with mobile social support tools is different for the support network of the customer.


  • Train health service professionals about the role of customer experience
  • Develop marketing communications to “lift the blaincéad on breastfeeding” in order to normalize breastfeeding in a cultural context and,
  • Design digital mobile tools for both the customer and their support network.


Guiding Theory:

  • Computer-Mediated Communication
  • Customer Experience

Chief Investigators