Moms are 20 percent more likely than the rest of the population to use social media, according to a report released last month by BabyCenter, a parenting and pregnancy website. In just the last year, memberships in BabyCenter's online "birth club" forums, which group women based on their children's birth dates, have doubled to more than 20,000 members who trade 2 million comments.
Heidi Murkoff, author of the "What to Expect" series, expanded her brand in 2005 with the launch of WhatToExpect.com, which began with discussion groups at the national level, but recently added local groups.
"We noticed the importance of local groups as a trend," Murkoff said in an email interview.
"Our Baltimore moms support each other on everything from choosing a hospital to setting up a mommy and me yoga class," she said. "Best of all, they can get together for play dates and field trips, something that's a bit more challenging for groups that span the globe."
Other locally grown Facebook groups have been started for city parents, including Midtown Baltimore Families, launched a year ago by Dinah Winnick, a communications manager for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.
Winnick was on maternity leave at the time with her second child — who was born on Mother's Day, 2012 — and looking for a more efficient way to connect with area parents. The Facebook group's nearly 100 members use it to share how they're "picking a school, to events that are happening or even just to organize play dates at a neighborhood playground," said Winnick, 29.
And now, she's even recognized occasionally as "Dinah from Facebook."
UMBC's Women's Center maintains a mothers' listserv, an electronic mailing list for subscribers, that brings people together, according to director Jess Myers.
"As work demands have increased, moms feel unable to get away from work (or feel guilty) to meet face-to-face with each other," Myers said in an email. "Our listserv (in addition to the others I know some of our moms are on such as the Fed Hill, Canton and Towson listservs) sometimes may be the only connection they have to each other for support and resources. Our listserv has been used to help moms locate pediatricians, dentists and child care … in addition to simply being a community of support."
Support is a key draw for many women in Dorman's group.
"The moms are dealing with the same challenges as me at exactly the same time," Ann Brickley, mother to 11-month-old Maeve, said in an email. "I have family and friends who are wonderful mothers, but they lived through the diaper rash/sleep training/teething challenges years ago, and only have vague memories of what they did and what worked. So having a group of compatriots in the trenches with me is irreplaceable. Also, we cheer one another on, and commiserate when appropriate."
Maeve's naps never conformed to the routines outlined in some of the most popular advice books, which troubled Brickley until the Facebook group showed she wasn't alone.
"It reassured me that just because my baby wasn't sleeping the way the books said they should didn't mean she wasn't sleeping" just fine, Brickley said in an interview.
Now that her daughter's nearly a year old and Brickley has grown more comfortable with her parenting instincts, she posts fewer questions and more answers, she said.
Dorman said that evolution has been rewarding to watch. And she acknowledged that there is still a place for advice from family. Her grandmother is among her favorite advisers.
Said Dorman: "In general, she's just like, 'Relax, they'll survive. Put him in the playpen.'"