COVID-19 disrupts breastfeeding plans of new moms

29 Oct 2020

The separation of newborns from their mothers due to control measures for the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic lowers the rate of breastfeeding, both in the hospital and at home, a recent study has found.

Researchers conducted an observational longitudinal cohort study on 160 mother-infant dyads, who were surveyed over the phone regarding feeding plans before delivery, and feeding practices in the hospital and at home. All mothers had been diagnosed for COVID-19 through polymerase chain reaction testing, and any effects of this on feeding were investigated.

Ultimately, 85 mothers consented to participate in the telephone survey. More than a third said that COVID-19, particularly the separation of the infant at birth leading to difficulties with latching, caused a change in their predelivery feeding plans. Twenty-three mothers, on the other hand, saw no such difficulty.

Comparing those who were vs were not separated from their infants at birth, survey responses showed significant discrepancies in terms of hospital (p<0.001) and home (p=0.012) feeding practices, despite no such difference in predelivery plans (p=0.268).

For instance, 22.2 percent of the mothers who were not separated from their infants were able to breastfeed while still in the hospital, as opposed to none of those who were separated at birth. In turn, 81.6 percent of the separated infants were given formula milk in the hospital, as compared to only 27.8 percent of their not-separated counterparts.

These discrepancies continued until home discharge, where breastfeeding remained more common among pairs who were not separated at birth (27.8 percent vs 12.2 percent), and formula feeding became the dominant mode for those who were (34.7 percent vs 8.3 percent).

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