A senior nursing consultant in Essex has advised that mums and mums-to-be should consult informal Facebook groups if they need any urgent advice about their young children or their pregnancy – this can often be far quicker than getting a considered opinion from a qualified health professional.

Andrew Gabble, head of the Younger Years Health Consultation Consortium in Essex, said, ‘While contacting your GP may be the first idea that springs to mind if you have a concern about your young child’s health or your pregnancy, you should also remember that more than 29 million mothers, mothers-to-be, and women who happen to know mothers currently belong to Facebook groups that provide helpful advice – whether or not you actually ask for it. Whatever your concern may be, there will always be someone who has been through exactly the same thing with their own kids, along with other people who have probably read about it in Take A Break or something.’

He added, ‘Even if you already have kids of your own, the laws of social media dictate that anyone with one child more will have total and absolute intellectual superiority over any opinions that you may have already – regardless of the level of grammar and spelling on display. Also, you can share photos if you wish to give further information about your child’s condition, and as an added bonus other group members can use this image to make other observations about your general ability as both a mother and a general human being.’

Shelly Del Monte, a mother of 13 from Westcliff, is one of the most active members on the ‘Babies and mothering advice in SOUthend for Mummees’ Facebook group. She said, ‘Young mummies shouldn’t worry about other people on Facebook thinking things about them when they post things about their kids’ health things – we have more than 1000 posts a day and we are all really chatty. Unfortunately we can’t have any daddies posting on there as we all use our kids as our profile pics and they could download them – I can’t put my kids in danger.’