Boiling down the last three years of your life into three minutes would be tough even for the most seasoned public speaker or party guest. A doctoral student in the College of Information Studies may be among the best in the world at it.

Fiona Jardine MLS ’14, Ph.D. ’20—who, after having her daughter in 2016, began exclusively using a breast pump to feed her—is a People’s Choice finalist in the 2019 Universitas 21 3 Minute Thesis Competition for her video: "Breastfeeding Without Nursing: The Lived Experiences of Exclusive Pumpers." Voting ends today in the competition, which challenges research students to communicate the significance of their projects to a nonspecialist audience in just three minutes.

“Trying to condense your research down to three minutes for a lay audience is an absolutely essential skill to have as a Ph.D. student,” Jardine said. “For any research, funding is increasingly difficult to get. I think it's really important that people are able to translate it into real speak, language that the general population can understand, and to also be challenged to justify the reason for doing it for the world at large.”

UMD has been highly successful in the international competition, winning the Judges’ First Place in 2014 and 2017, and the People’s Choice Awards in 2014, 2015 and 2017.

Jardine, like many mothers, experienced problems breastfeeding when her baby, Georgie, had a tongue tie and couldn’t latch. Hoping to avoid switching to formula, she decided to solely use a breast pump. But despite taking breastfeeding classes, doing research and meeting with a doula, she found little information on exclusively using that method and resorted to Facebook groups.

“If you know the name for it, you know what to search for,” she said. “If you don't, you’re clutching at straws and you can’t find out the right information. I had frustration with established lactation care and lack thereof.”

Through her 170-question survey taken by more than 2,000 exclusive pumpers, Jardine is aiming to fill that information gap by analyzing their experiences and reasons for choosing the approach. She hopes to uncover insights for exclusive pumpers as well as health care providers to reference.

For example, many mothers are told to simply try harder to feed at the breast, but that’s often not a choice. Jardine found that around 70% of respondents reported situations similar to hers, where their baby couldn’t latch. Other reasons for exclusively pumping included problems with the mother’s anatomy, babies spending time in the newborn intensive care unit and the need to track in infant’s intake, with less than 10% saying they “just wanted to.”

“No one has asked exclusive pumpers what this is like, so no one knows what to do to help,” Jardine said. “This research has the potential to touch hundreds of thousands of lives every year.”

Laurie White contributed to this article.