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Coronavirus has affected the way mothers nurse their babies


Mothers across Israel have changed the way they nurse amid the coronavirus pandemic due to a variety of reasons, including stress and economic issues, according to a report on nursing during the coronavirus crisis released by the Health Ministry on Sunday.

The Health Ministry report noted that the habits of new mothers changed during the coronavirus pandemic, as they may have been at home more and many health services that were previously in-person moved online. The isolation during lockdown may have also had emotional and mental effects on mothers.

The study by the ministry sought to examine the effect of the pandemic on nursing mothers of infants up to six and a half months. The ministry collected a Google form survey sent to 580 mothers in April and May to conduct the survey.

Some 90% of those who answered the survey stated that they breastfed their baby either fully or alongside formula. Two-thirds of the mothers stated that they received breastfeeding consultation at the hospital, while 45% said that that they received advice outside of the hospital.

Some 25% of the respondents stated that the coronavirus crisis had an impact on their nursing, with 15% deciding to extend the period of breastfeeding and 8% deciding to reduce or stop breastfeeding.

Of those who decided to extend the nursing period, 70% said that they did so because they understood that breastfeeding protects against infection and 66% said that they did so because they were at home more and so were more available. Some 33% of those who extended did so because it calmed them and 14% did so for economic reasons.

Of those who decided to reduce or stop breastfeeding, 65% said that they did so because they had less time available, 34% said it was due to stress and anxiety, 27% due to mental health and 7% to a need for consultation.

As for what women thought would encourage breastfeeding, some 96% of the women surveyed said extending maternity leave, 93% said home consultation on nursing, 92% said consultation in hospitals and 70% felt instruction on pumping, options to work from home, phone consultations on breastfeeding, instructional videos and meeting with virtual groups of additional mothers would encourage breastfeeding.

“Breastfeeding is very important and we must act on several levels to support women who have chosen to breastfeed, and prevent reduction and cessation due to a sense of uncertainty about the future, financial insecurity, lack of support from extended family and insufficient availability of breastfeeding counseling for some women,” wrote the report.

The ministry recommended that breastfeeding counseling be made more available and uniform in hospitals and that the benefits of breastfeeding be explained clearly in times of crisis.

The report also called for assistance to help women reduce stress and anxiety, and to establish a virtual community of women who are breastfeeding or interested in breastfeeding, where they can share their feelings, support each other, consult with professionals and virtually meet with other mothers.

The ministry additionally recommended that the option to work from home be provided to new mothers.

While there is still no evidence that the virus can spread through breast milk, the Health Ministry does recommend that mothers wear a mask and be strict about hygiene due to the close contact with their baby during nursing.

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