June 22, 2024

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Unintended impact of COVID-19 pandemic: Lockdowns prolong breastfeeding

Unintended impact of COVID-19 pandemic: Lockdowns prolong breastfeeding


Unintended impact of COVID-19 pandemic: Lockdowns prolong breastfeeding

A new study led by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) found that during stay-at-home orders for COVID-19, American mothers were breastfeeding their babies for two weeks longer than they were before the pandemic.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months, noting that it has wide-ranging health benefits for babies and parents.


“Stay at home policies allow parents to continue breastfeeding at home, rather than returning to the workplace.” This suggests pent-up demand for breastfeeding, which may be hampered by the lack of a national paid family leave policy in the United States. “


The increase in breastfeeding time during shelter-in-place was most pronounced among white women and high-income earners, the study noted, likely because the jobs of these groups are more easily done at home.

According to the study, Hispanic parents are more likely to be working “essential” low-wage jobs during the pandemic, so breastfeeding gains have been more modest for this group.


“The pandemic has once again highlighted an area of ​​health inequity – differences in breastfeeding-friendly workplaces,” Hamad said.


The study was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health.


Unintended impact of COVID-19 pandemic: Lockdowns prolong breastfeeding


A natural experiment


The researchers looked at workplace closures early in the pandemic (March-April 2020) as a natural experiment to see if the ability to stay home changed new parents’ breastfeeding patterns.


They used the 2017-2020 national survey and birth certificate data from 118,139 postpartum individuals to examine whether babies were breastfed, and if so, for how long. They compared the initiation and duration of breastfeeding for infants born before and after the in situ containment policy.


While breastfeeding initiation rates did not change during the pandemic, the duration of breastfeeding among women increased from 12.6 to 14.8 weeks, or 18%.

White women had the greatest increase in duration at 19 percent, while Hispanic women had the smallest increase at 10.3 percent.

Higher-income women had a larger increase than lower-income women, 18.5 percent versus 16.8 percent, respectively.

The longer duration lasted until at least August 2020 before declining to pre-pandemic levels.


Initiation of breastfeeding did not change during the early months of the pandemic, which may indicate that the barriers to initiating breastfeeding are different from those for continuing breastfeeding.

However, breastfeeding initiation rates did decrease during the pandemic for black and low-income groups, which may reflect these groups’ less access to breastfeeding support during shelter-in-place.


The United States ranks worse than most of its peers for the initiation and duration of breastfeeding, and is the only high-income country that does not have a national paid leave policy for new parents.

Only 25 percent of U.S. private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers, and workers of color and low-wage workers are the least likely to be eligible.


“Our research shows that if working parents were paid to stay home and care for their newborns, the duration of breastfeeding in the United States would be higher and more comparable to peer countries, especially for people of color and those in low-income jobs. Parents, they cannot afford unpaid leave,” Hamad said. 


Unintended impact of COVID-19 pandemic: Lockdowns prolong breastfeeding

(source:internet, reference only)

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