Cover: Changes in Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Experiences During COVID

Changes in Breastfeeding and Lactation Support Experiences During COVID

Published in: Journal of Women's Health, Volume 32, No. 2, pages 150-160 (February 2023). doi: 10.1089/jwh.2022.0146

Posted on rand.org Apr 27, 2023

by Maria DeYoreo, Kandice A. Kapinos, Rebecca Ann Lawrence, Gabriela Alvarado, Molly Waymouth, Jill R. Demirci, Lori Uscher-Pines

Background

We surveyed parents who gave birth from 2019 to 2021 to examine changes in breastfeeding experiences and professional and lay breastfeeding support services due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We also examined racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding support.

Materials and Methods

A cross-sectional opt-in survey of 1,617 parents was administered on Ovia's parenting app in January 2022. Respondents were 18-45 years of age and delivered in one of three birth cohorts: August-December 2019, March-May 2020, or June-August 2021. We fit linear and logistic regression models wherein the outcomes were six breastfeeding support and experience measures, adjusting for birth cohort and respondent demographics.

Results

Parents who gave birth in the early pandemic versus those in the prepandemic had reduced odds of interacting with lactation consultants (odds ratio [OR]: 0.63; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.44-0.90), attending breastfeeding classes (OR: 0.71; 95% CI: 0.54-0.94), meeting breastfeeding goals (OR: 0.65; 95% CI: 0.46-0.92), and reporting it was easy to get breastfeeding help (estimate: -0.36; 95% CI: -0.55 to -0.17). Birth cohort was not associated with use of donor milk or receipt of in-hospital help. The later pandemic cohort differed from the prepandemic cohort for one outcome: they were less likely to meet their breastfeeding goals (OR: 0.67; 95% CI: 0.48-0.95). There were racial and ethnic disparities in the use of multiple types of breastfeeding support. Although one-third of respondents felt that the pandemic facilitated breastfeeding because of more time at home, 18% felt the pandemic posed additional challenges including disruptions to lactation support.

Conclusions

Parents who gave birth in the later pandemic did not report significant disruptions to professional breastfeeding support, likely as a result of the growth of virtual services. However, disparities in receipt of support require policy attention and action.

Research conducted by

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