How lockdowns impact breastfeeding, what new mothers need to know

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to force countries worldwide into their third and fourth lockdowns, there are a number of health concerns arising, especially for pregnant women and new mothers. 

Staying safe from COVID-19 is a priority, especially for pregnant women who are at increased risk from the virus, compared to women who aren’t. This, in turn, means taking the appropriate precautions to social distance, wear a mask, and wash your hands. However, the COVID-19 lockdowns are having a profound impact on pregnant women and new mothers in more ways than one. 

According to a recent study, preliminary findings suggest that 78% of pregnant women and new mothers are experiencing significant stress. Approximately 75% of pregnant women reported changes to their prenatal care, while 90% reported changes to postnatal care. A number of pregnant women reported that the lockdowns negatively impacted their breastfeeding as well. Due to a lack of access to medical care, information, and support systems, many stopped breastfeeding before they were ready or planned to as issues arose.

Despite strict stay-at-home orders in some parts of the world, it is important to remain active and incorporate light or moderate activities into your daily routine. This is true for both pregnant women and new mothers, as the impact of sedentary behavior can start to take effect after just two weeks, impacting stress, heart health, circulation, and even your immune system. Aside from taking care of their own well-being, mothers can also take steps to understand how the lockdowns are impacting the overall health of their babies as well as their breast milk.

It’s also crucial for breastfeeding mothers to make sure they’re eating a well-balanced diet and taking their vitamins. Vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin C, are essential for immune system support. This is especially important for mothers to keep in mind during lockdowns, when most are eating less fresh fruits and vegetables. Neglecting a well-balanced diet, including supplements, can impact vitamin C levels in breast milk, which is critical for boosting babies’ immunity.

For those who are breastfeeding, establishing a routine early on with your baby can be beneficial to both. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, early breastfeeding can help babies defend against infection, reduce the risk of diarrhea, and increase survival rates. Breastfeeding is linked to lower rates of colds and upper respiratory infections, such as pneumonia and whooping cough. Boosting your babies’ immune system, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and cold and flu season, is critical. 

Another benefit of breastfeeding for babies is a lowered risk of illness overall and less hospitalizations. As parents protect their babies from COVID-19, minimized hospital visits is a key step they can take to lower their babies risk of exposure. 

While a vaccine is now available, lockdowns are still very much a part of our everyday lives at the moment and it’s important for new mothers to understand how staying at home for extended periods of time plays a role in their breastfeeding, and the general health of their babies.