Breastfeeding during pandemic presents unique challenges for new mothers

Posted at 7:31 AM, Aug 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-07 08:34:08-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — August is National Breastfeeding Month, a time to recognize and support new mothers taking on a new bond with their baby. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, a task that already comes with some challenges has been impacted even more.

When breastfeeding issues arise, lactation professionals like Alyson Layne-Davidson with the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department are there to help. However, not being able to have close contact because of the pandemic makes challenges even more glaring.

“Sometimes it’s a big mystery and you have to figure out, what’s really going on? What’s really causing this issue? Getting that over the phone instead of visually is definitely new and challenging,” Layne-Davidson said. “Trying to ask very leading questions to see how is baby responding or how is the mom responding, to try to understand more without a visual cue.”

Even with challenges, she’s seeing a lot of mothers more motivated to breastfeed during this time.

“Because they know that their baby is getting antibodies in their breast milk to keep their baby from getting sick, and we know with some other illnesses that antibodies really do make a difference in protecting the babies,” Layne-Davidson said.

There is no evidence that suggests the virus is spread through breast milk, but if the mother thinks she’s been exposed or has contracted the virus, she should take precautions like practicing good hand hygiene and wearing a mask while holding her baby.

For mothers who are producing more milk right now, it could benefit milk depots like the one out of Centered, a holistic healing center in Lexington.

Owner Lauren Higdon says they collect milk donations and ship them to The Milk Bank based in Indianapolis. At the beginning of the pandemic, she said there was a great need.

“You know, with hospitals trying to find their footing and everybody was in a little bit of chaos,” Higdon said. “We had shut down in March as many businesses did and then when we heard that call that there was a desperate need for milk, we arranged so that moms and families could make an appointment to drop off milk.”

Recently, Higdon has seen a surge in donations. So much so, they’re shipping out at least twice as much as they used to.

“There’s a backlog. So, if moms couldn’t make their deliveries as they usually would, they were just stockpiling it in their freezers and some were having to borrow other people’s freezer space,” she said. “So, you know, we’re getting calls of, ‘May I deliver 400 to 800 ounces of milk at a time?’”

As the need continues, Higdon hopes the donation surplus does as well.