More time at home bringing a return to breastfeeding: WSU expert

A Western Sydney University expert in infant feeding during emergencies has highlighted the impact of COVID-19 on new mums, who are placing increasing importance on breastfeeding during the pandemic.

Adjunct Associate Professor Karleen Gribble from the University's School of Nursing and Midwifery said the global health crisis had led women to continue breastfeeding longer than they had previously intended, or even restart breastfeeding after they had weaned.

Rosie and her daughter Eloise. Picture: Supplied

Rosie and her daughter Eloise. Picture: Supplied

"During these difficult times, it's understandable for mums to be concerned about the wellbeing of their babies," said Associate Professor Gribble.

"Mums are concerned about contracting the virus, and are considering breastfeeding as a means of boosting their overall health and immunity. They are also concerned about the availability of formula, and are considering the practical value of breastfeeding while they are in lockdown."

Trainee breastfeeding counsellor with the Australian Breastfeeding Association's (ABA) Hawkesbury Nepean group, Rosie Hodges, said a combination of being at home more, and having the spotlight shone on immune systems, had lead to some mothers in her group - herself included - breastfeeding their children for longer than they otherwise would have.

"I have a 19-month old, and I was thinking about weaning her when she's two, but now I've decided to breastfeed her longer because it's good for her immunity," Ms Hodges told the Gazette.

"I feel strongly about feeding her as extra protection during this time."

She said a lot of new mums she knew were finding being at home more had allowed them to establish breastfeeding habits.

"It's a really odd time for new mums. You don't get midwives coming to the house as much, and you don't have as many mothers groups occurring, and that has its pros and cons," she said.

"It allows you to have that time and get into the groove with your baby."