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How the Pandemic Disrupts Breastfeeding Experiences

The COVID-19 pandemic and the implications of physical distancing have disrupted new mothers’ birth and breastfeeding experiences even if they are not COVID-19 positive or a person awaiting results. In a new case series report from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), researchers share common concerns and experiences as reported by three first-time, healthy mothers regarding the disruption of their birth plans and breastfeeding experiences.

“We shared these experiences to understand better the ways in which new families experience pregnancy and lactation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the implications for maternal–child nurses and other health care providers,” says Diane L. Spatz, PhD, RN-BC, FAAN, Professor of Perinatal Nursing and Helen M. Shearer Term Professor of Nutrition at Penn Nursing. Spatz co-authored the article with Elizabeth Froh, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nursing.

Using the three reported experiences, the article suggests the following clinical implications:

  • Inconsistencies in messaging about care creates stress and anxiety for patients and families
  • Consistent and repeated education about human milk and breastfeeding being essential especially during this time of COVID-19
  • Social distancing has had a negative impact on the support that new mothers receive from their families as well as in person breastfeeding support groups
  • Mothers reported missing time with their families and the ability to participate in support groups that are held in person
  • Telehealth may play a role in the future of evidence-based lactation care for some issues, however in-person technical support is irreplaceable

“Nurses and other health care providers can learn from these mothers’ perceptions and proactively work to ensure we provide sound anticipatory guidance, enhance our communication, and improve provision of evidence-based lactation care and support,” says Spatz.

The article, “Birth and Breastfeeding in the Hospital Setting During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” published in The American Journal of Maternal/Child Nursing, is available online.