With more than half of Australia locked down due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Australian Breastfeeding Association (ABA) is calling for dads, partners and loved-ones to champion the practical support needs of mothers this World Breastfeeding Week.
World Breastfeeding Week takes place from August 1 to 7 and the theme for 2021 is 'Protect breastfeeding: a shared responsibility'.
"For infants, mothers and the community at large to enjoy the health benefits associated with breastfeeding, including the immunity against respiratory illnesses via breastmilk, support from 'the village' is essential.
"Even prior to the pandemic, the support of dads and partners has consistently been shown to significantly improve breastfeeding duration and exclusivity rates," Naomi Hull, Senior Manager, Breastfeeding Information and Research at ABA said.
Some 61 percent of mothers seeking breastfeeding support from ABA reported being challenged, fearful or unable to access traditional face-to-face supports during Australia's first COVID-19 wave. In response, 64 percent of mothers sought support to protect their infants by restarting breastfeeding, continuing breastfeeding, or increasing milk supply.
A Vietnamese study has shown that when fathers (practically and emotionally) support mothers to work as a parenting team, this leads to improved infant development scores at nine months, increases in the duration of exclusive breastfeeding, and improves the relationship quality between the mother and father.
Similarly, a US study of 48,379 women who breastfed beyond 12 months found that 91.4 percent discussed this decision with their partner, whereas only half discussed it with their child's GP/paediatrician.
As the COVID-19 pandemic stretches into its 18th month, ABA is calling on expectant parents and, especially, dads and partners to build the foundations for a 'virtual village' ahead of their newest arrival.
"It's as simple as booking yourself and your partner into an ABA breastfeeding education class online or in person and saving the Breastfeeding Helpline number into your phone," Ms Hull said.
"Once armed with practical breastfeeding knowledge and backed by the support of our free LiveChat service and 24/7 Breastfeeding Helpline, prospective parents are well positioned to navigate the newborn phase together, with or without the support of their usual 'village'."
As social isolation is an all-too-common challenge for many new parents, the ready and regular local events and catch-ups (online or in person) provided by ABA's national network of 130+ local groups have been filling the social connectivity and health services void created by the pandemic lockdowns.
"Having connected with other mums prior to the birth, this 'instant village' smooths the transition into motherhood, with ABA's trained volunteers creating a judgement-free haven of support, evidence-based information and connection through the uncertainty of the pandemic," Ms Hull said.
The Lithgow group holds meetings the first and third Wednesday each month at 2 Roy Street, Lithgow from 10.30am-12.30pm.
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