Mommies, are you looking for parenting advice and support? Hundreds of mothers are willing to help you out--all you need is an internet connection.

A recent study on by researchers from the University of Missouri shows that online communities are “safe havens” for mothers. Message boards and forums are now virtual venues not only for those who love memes and cat photos but also for women who share the same experiences. They have become venues for mothers to express their concerns about parenthood behind the safety of anonymity.

Study co-author Jean Ispa, who is also a professor and co-chair of the MU Department of Human Development and Family Studies explains the phenomenon, "Mothers have feelings that they might be embarrassed to talk about face-to-face with someone. Moms may feel ashamed if they have feelings like, 'My child is really stressing me out,' or 'My child is annoying me.' On message boards, with a pseudonym, mothers can say whatever they're feeling, and they can get emotional support and advice from other moms with similar experiences."

Working with Noriko Porter and a team of researchers, Ispa monitored message boards of two famous parenting magazines, and analyzed data from more than 100 posts from mothers with kids below two years old. They found that maternal concerns revolved mainly around “feeding or eating, sleep, development, discipline, toilet-training and mother-child relationships.” As moms work round-the-clock, message boards provide a 24-hour place of discussion where they can receive real-time suggestions and solutions to their problems.

But although information and support are freely given online, it’s important for mothers to know that when it comes to their children’s health, it’s still best to consult professionals. Ispa says, “Message boards are useful sources of social support, yet mothers need to be careful and realize the advice shared on the boards mostly represents the opinions of lay people.”

So if you’re looking for the right medication for your baby’s allergies, go to your pediatrician; but if you’re looking for someone to share your stories with, go to a parenting message board like the one on GIRLTalk. Join the conversation!

(Photo by eyeliam via Flickr Creative Commons)

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