Mothers’ online message board questions about parenting infants and toddlers


N. Porter: e-mail:


porter n. & ispa j.m. (2013) Mothers’ online message board questions about parenting infants and toddlers. Journal of Advanced Nursing69(3), 559–568. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.2012.06030.x


Aim.  To report a study conducted to explore childrearing concerns through an analysis of online parenting message boards managed by popular parenting magazines.

Background.  Increasingly, mothers appear to be turning to the Web for childrearing advice and support. However, no previous studies have examined the childrearing concerns of mothers of infants and toddlers through the analysis of online message board postings.

Design.  Ethnographic content analysis methods were used to analyse the online postings.

Methods.  A total of 120 messages posted in 2007 by mothers of 0–2 year olds on the websites of two best-selling parenting magazines in the United States were submitted to ethnographic content analysis. Each message pertained to one or more of six childrearing domains: Feeding/Eating, Sleep, Development, Discipline, Toilet-Training and Mother–Child Relationships.

Results.  Questions and pleas for support were most prominently centred on feeding/eating and sleep issues. Mothers expressed concerns about when and how their children should begin to sleep and eat independently. In addition to the themes specific to particular domains, across-domain themes were identified involving mothers’ parenting stress, questioning of advice from families/paediatricians and worries that children were not developing normally.

Conclusion.  Online forums have become a space where mothers can openly describe their own negative emotions towards parenting and ask questions or gain reassurance to resolve mixed messages about how one should rear infants and toddlers. Paediatric nurses should be aware that mothers are confused about conflicting messages, especially in the domains of sleeping and eating. Reviewing parenting message boards occasionally would give nurses continuing insight into common parenting concerns.