Preserving breastfeeding in the age of COVID-19: A call to action
COVID-19 has so far shown significant impact on maternity clinical practice, lactation counselling and support services. More than half of the healthcare professionals in the maternity ward and NICU have reported important changes in clinical practice. Also, the healthcare system is under considerable pressure and supporting staff are being reduced, with midwives and breastfeeding specialists being most affected by these reductions. As a result, new mothers lack essential support in the first critical days to help their infants to breastfeed or if the infant cannot breastfeed to initiate and build an adequate milk supply for the long term. In addition, COVID-19 has caused significant stress in breastfeeding mothers due to diverse factors.
Despite the initial intentions of mothers to breastfeed, COVID-19 has seen a signifcant negative impact on reastfeeding duration and rates as new reduced access to maternity services become the norm.
Human Milk, COVID-19 and breastfeeding - A scientific literature review on COVID-19 and breastfeeding to date
As the pandemic unfolded, many questions were asked with respect to transmission routes and modes of infection, with particular interest devoted to the mother-infant dyad and the status of breastfeeding and breast milk. Whilst the benefits of breast milk and breastfeeding to the mother and the infant are well documented, there was uncertainty in the early stages of the pandemic with respect to hospital practices and recommendations around COVID-19 and breastfeeding. What was clear, however, was the need for evidence-based recommendations addressing the issue of transmission whilst accounting for the value of breastfeeding. Such recommendations would enable new mothers and their babies to continue benefitting from the advantages of breastfeeding and the use of human milk in this COVID-19 era.
Click here to download a comprehensive and updated literature review of the scientific evidence to date by Leon Mitoulas, Nania Schärer-Hernandez and Severine Liabat (Front. Pediatr. 20 November 2020)
Scientific roundtables to understand and act on the impact of COVID-19 on maternity clinical practice and breastfeeding support
Medela hosted a series of virtual roundtable discussions with leading researchers to understand the impact of COVID-19 on breastfeeding at a global and local level and to share their thoughts on current changes in clinical maternity practices and breastfeeding support.
Nine experts in breastfeeding, lactation, immunology and virology, including Lars Bode, Riccardo Davanzo, Donna Geddes, Janis Müller, Hans van Goudoever, Rebecca Powell, Virginie Rigourd, Diane Spatz and Ann Yates shared their expert observations, research and recommendations for supporting breastfeeding mums and clinicians during the pandemic. Key findings included that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA is rare in breast milk and that a vast majority of mums have a strong antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 in their breast milk when infected or upon recovery. Concerned about the changes in clinical practice, all experts have emphasised the importance of providing mothers with evidence-based information and guidance and breastfeeding support as there is a critical window of opportunity to establish milk supply effectively.
Their viewpoint is published in a paper in the journal Frontiers in Pediatrics ‘Promoting and Protecting Human Milk & Breastfeeding in a COVID-19 World’.
During a roundtable conducted in Germany including Silke Mader, Aleyd von Gartzen, Ursula Felderhoff-Müser, Monika Berns, Vera Hesels, Prof. Dr. med. Michael Abou-Dakn, Thomas Kühn, Johannes Middelanis, the experts discussed the impact of COVID-19 on breastfeeding in Germany and concluded that breastfeeding should be promoted particularly in times of COVID-19, that the separation of mother and child should be avoided and that parents must be informed early on about breastfeeding and about suitable hygiene measures.
Medela 2020/21 webinar series on breastfeeding and lactation in the COVID-19 era
As coronavirus suddenly spread around the globe, so did inaccurate and unsubstantiated information that led to great uncertainty on the part of mothers and health care professionals. In addition, the COVID-19 situation has brought changes in clinical practice on the maternity ward: a shortened length of stay in the hospital after delivery, the possible separation of the mother from her baby and increased pressure on healthcare personnel. All these factors can impact the appropriate initiation of the mother’s breastfeeding journey as well as its duration. In order to provide the latest information and research results on breastfeeding, breast milk, safety and health of pregnant women, nursing mothers and their babies in the COVID-19 era, we have created a bespoke webinar series.