Social Support during COVID-19: Perspectives of Breastfeeding Mothers

Kailey Snyder, Gwen Worlton

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations

Abstract

Introduction: Effective social support can have a critical influence on a mother's ability to initiate and continue breastfeeding. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has created unprecedented barriers for breastfeeding mothers to obtain various types of support: emotional, instrumental, informational, and appraisal. However, no research has evaluated the influence the pandemic has had on breastfeeding supports. The purpose of this study was to explore perceptions of social support among breastfeeding mothers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Materials and Methods: A cross-sectional phenomenological approach was taken utilizing semistructured interviews (March-June 2020) with currently breastfeeding mothers (n = 29). Data were analyzed through a process of immersion and crystallization. Results: Mothers are still able to obtain each type of support, however, support has been negatively influenced by the pandemic. Mothers reported experiencing increased stress and isolation and had an immense desire to receive in-person support from peers, family, childcare providers, and lactation specialists. Furthermore, mothers of multiple children felt if they did not already have breastfeeding knowledge from previous experiences they would be unsuccessful in breastfeeding due to their current lack of support. Conversely, a majority of mothers felt the pandemic had positively influenced their breastfeeding journeys due to concerns of formula shortages and extended maternity leaves. Finally, mothers were concerned about safely expressing breast milk on their return to work. Conclusion: Mother's ability to obtain breastfeeding support has been negatively impacted by the pandemic due to the inability to engage with individuals in-person and the lack of access to childcare. First-time mothers may be at higher risk of early breastfeeding cessation due to lack of support. However, breastfeeding journeys have also been positively influenced by allowing mothers more time at home with their child. Resources are needed to support expressing breast milk in the workplace during COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-45
Number of pages7
JournalBreastfeeding Medicine
Volume16
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics
  • Health Policy
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery

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