Breastfeeding during COVID-19

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Sam and Nick are parents to Ellis, four years old, and Fletcher, who is almost two years of age. Sam chose to breastfeed both of their children and while her breastfeeding journey with Ellis ended when he was 18 months old, she is currently breastfeeding Fletcher. We asked Sam about her breastfeeding experience and how the pandemic has impacted nursing her son.

Tell us about your breastfeeding experience.

When planning for my first pregnancy, breastfeeding my newborn was something I hoped to do. Once Ellis was born, I quickly realized that despite my desire to breastfeed there would be some challenges. Oversupply, clogged ducts, an unrelated surgery and anesthesia, cracked nipples, latch issues, nursing strikes, and so many of the things we were faced with were things I had limited knowledge about. I also realized how important it was for me to find support and work to overcome any obstacles and continue nursing.

With my second baby, Fletcher, I was so excited to cultivate another nursing relationship and build on what I had learned with Ellis. I started out much more confidently and had supports in place prior to beginning which made the world of a difference.

Breastfeeding has not been easy every day, but watching Fletcher grow and develop and knowing that I played such an important role in that is very rewarding.

What does breastfeeding mean to you?

Getting pregnant was not an “easy” experience for me. I dealt with infertility and eventually conceived both my children through IVF. In my pregnancies and births, I had some health concerns as well. Meeting my breastfeeding goals was a hugely affirming experience for me and my body after the previous challenges I had faced.

Breastfeeding, of course, has also helped me grow the relationships I have with my little people, and that is invaluable to me. Our nursing relationships allowed me to feed them, nourish their bodies, and offer comfort when they needed it. We shared many moments together, in many different places, peacefully nursing. It’s something I will always treasure.

How has your partner been impacted by your breastfeeding relationship?

I think my partner has learned so much about breastfeeding alongside of me and has been an incredible supporter. While I was in charge of the feedings, he looked for other tasks he could call his own, and different ways to bond with our boys. I think he sees breastfeeding much differently than he did prior to being a dad, and values it tremendously and continues to do everything he can to protect my nursing relationship.

 How has COVID-19 affected your breastfeeding experience?

Being a working mom during COVID-19 meant that when Fletcher was just about 18 months old I was suddenly home with him every day around the clock (as I had been up until he was 12 months old). This time allowed him to have easy access to me again throughout the day for comfort and nutrition, and I feel grateful we had that time to continue nursing. We had both been missing this when I was working and I hadn’t fully realized it.

On the other hand, it sometimes felt challenging to juggle breastfeeding, parenting, and working from home. Reminding myself that breastfeeding is a mutually beneficial relationship and taking breaks when I needed to was important.

How important is breastfeeding to you during a global pandemic?

Breastfeeding in a global pandemic definitely brought me comfort. Knowing that I had such a simple tool to offer and benefit my child’s health was empowering in an uncertain time. Understanding the immune benefits and the recommendations to continue nursing babies throughout the pandemic also brought peace of mind.

Is there anything you want new parents to know about breastfeeding?

There’s a steep learning curve when it comes to breastfeeding. Be kind and patient with yourself. Remember babies nurse for so many reasons- hunger is only one of them.

Ask for help when you need it and find people you trust that support you and your goals. Find a person who supports breastfeeding, and maybe has done it before themselves and ask if you can text or call when you feel like quitting during a hard feed at 2am.

Breastfeeding is a relationship, and like all relationships it requires effort, energy, time, and commitment to make it work. If you’re feeling like giving up, ask yourself if you can do one more day and then reevaluate your goals. Breastfeeding isn’t all or nothing and there are ways to make it work in many situations in many different ways!

Finally, when in doubt, try skin- to- skin with your babe to reset and reconnect.