The percentage of infants fully breastfed at 1, 3 and 6 months decreased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic among participants in the Special Supplementary Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in Southern California. The percentage of infants who received any breastfeeding also decreased during these time periods, according to a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding medicine.
Breastfeeding training is one of the pillars of the WIC program. It provides staff with appropriate breastfeeding training. During the COVID-19 pandemic, WIC services began to be offered remotely instead of face to face.
Researchers Maria Coleilat, DrPH, MPH, of the University of California, and co-authors, compared levels of full breastfeeding before COVID-19 with during COVID-19 among WIC participants and found that rates dropped significantly from 41.79% to 28 .09% for 1 month, 28.51% to 18.06% at 3 months and 15.66% to 10.38% at 6 months.
Researchers offer several possible explanations for reducing the rate of breastfeeding. “Breastfeeding support is a priority in the WIC program,” they said. “However, the shift to remote service provision and the corresponding reduction in live support for WIC services due to the pandemic may explain the decline in breastfeeding rates and the increase in early weaning in 2020. Another possible explanation is the mixed messages new parents receive regarding the safety of COVID-19 and breast-feeding. “
These data document the devastating and negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the well-being of infants and the challenges facing our health and social system in restoring basic public health practices.“
Arthur I. Aidelman, PhD, Editor-in-Chief of Breastfeeding Medicine, Mary Ann Lienert, Inc., Publishers
Mary Ann Libert, Inc., publishers
Reference in the magazine:
Koleylat, M., et al. (2021) The effect of COVID-19 on the percentage of breastfeeding in low-income populations. Breastfeeding medicine. doi.org/10.1089/bfm.2021.0238.