More mums breastfeeding babies despite coronavirus

4th Jun 2020

Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust has noted an increase in breastfeeding of newborn babies which could be linked to the stay at home restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Breastfeeding initiation rates in April were around 86 per cent – a six per cent increase compared to figures recorded at the same time last year at the organisation*.

The figures have been released to mark National Breastfeeding Celebration Week (Monday 1 June to 7 June).

An initial study** of breastmilk expressed by mothers recovering from COVID-19 found specific IgA antibodies against the virus in 80 per cent of milk samples. COVID-19 virus has not been found to be transmitted in breast milk unlike other body fluids.

Mum-of-four Sonia Thompson, aged 38, gave birth to Myah on 17 April and has been breastfeeding her since she was born.

“I was always going to breastfeed Myah regardless of what was happening in the outside world,” said Sonia. “I have found that I can focus on it more because there are less interruptions. Usually I would have to stop to take my 10-year-old son to school.”

Myah was born at City Hospital, but was transferred into the neonatal unit after she had problems with her oxygen levels and had lost blood. Sonia added: “I didn’t hesitate in expressing my milk so that she could drink it through a tube feed whilst she was being cared for in the neonatal unit.” 

Louise Thompson, Infant Feeding Co-ordinator at SWBH, said: “Breastfeeding is designed to be protective, it isn’t just nutritional. When women are exposed to bacteria and viruses their body responds by sending specific antibodies to breastmilk.

“In addition to this, we have spoken to lots of mums who have told us that they are able to spend more time learning to breastfeed their child because they are staying at home. This seems to be helping breastfeeding get off to a better start although lack of social support can also make mums feel lonely and isolated.

“During the pandemic the feeding team have been offering virtual clinics. These have been really helpful especially when women are unable to get in to see us in the hospital.

“We are also using an interpreting service so that all women and babies receive the same level of care.”

Louise added that face-to-face clinics are also continuing at City Hospital and at both West Bromwich Albion Football Club and Aston Villa.

*In April 2019 343 women of 431 initiated breastfeeding (79.6 per cent).  In April 2020 317 of 370 initiated breastfeeding (85.7 per cent).

 ** Initial study can be found here:

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