Can you imagine leaving the hospital 24 hours after having a baby? It’s happening more often due to changes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether it’s fear of the virus or challenges associated with visitor restrictions, many new moms are leaving as quickly as their provider will sign off on it – even in the middle of the night. Going home early could mean missing out on a lot of services – including lactation education and support. Beth Seidel, lactation consultant with UnityPoint Health, gives her top three breastfeeding tips and explains how a new, convenient service can provide breastfeeding help during the pandemic.
COVID-19 Birth Challenges
“When a family goes home at 24 hours, there are so many decisions to make and things to do – testing, bathing, birth certificates, paperwork, hearing tests and planning follow up pediatric appointments. If you have a baby that isn’t feeding well, lactation consultants are trying to get in there in the middle of everything else,” Seidel says.
Babies are also typically very tired in the first 24 hours. Seidel says if a family stays in the hospital for 48 hours, there’s more time to let the baby rest and recover from birth and start to wake up to get used to breastfeeding.
“It isn’t uncommon for a baby to be discharged before they’re feeding well. However, we know families are dealing with a lot, and the decision parents make with their doctor about going home is the one that works best for their family,” she says.
Seidel says her team creates a written safety plan with families before leaving the hospital, which includes how much to feed the baby, a plan for the mom to stimulate and protect her breastmilk supply and a scheduled outpatient appointment with a lactation consultant.
Breastfeeding Concerns During COVID-19
Seidel says new moms are asking, “Is it safe to breastfeed during the pandemic?”
“It’s absolutely safe and advised during a pandemic. Moms can make milk that’s tailor made for the needs of the baby. For example, if mom and baby are exposed to coronavirus, mom will make and pass protective antibodies through her milk to her baby,” Seidel says.
Another big concern is leaving the house with a new baby. While it’s important to make smart choices about where to take your baby in public during the pandemic, Seidel says a breastfed baby is more protected against illness. So, it’s important to keep working on breastfeeding to help keep your baby healthy.
“Breastmilk is worth fighting for – so hang in there! Work up front will give you a huge payoff,” Seidel says.
Seidel says some moms also worry about how to handle breastfeeding should they contract COVID-19.
“If you get the virus, you can still breastfeed. However, it’s recommended you wear a cloth face mask and wash your hands, or use hand sanitizer, before touching the baby. If you are pumping your milk, wash your hands before touching your pump parts and wash your pump parts and bottles immediately after use,” Seidel says.
Three Breastfeeding Tips for Success
Seidels says her three tips are these – get help, give it at least two weeks and don’t watch the clock.
“Don’t struggle with nursing without reaching out to someone to get help. There are a lot of resources available through your hospital and community. The federal WIC (Women, Infant and Children) program also provides resources. Reach out to friends and family who are experienced in breastfeeding and surround yourself with people who will be positive and encouraging as you work on it,” she says.
Don’t Give Up
Also, try not to give up before two weeks are up. Seidel knows breastfeeding baby can be challenging, but she encourages all new parents to give it some time before calling it quits.
Avoid Watching the Clock
Finally, don’t look at the clock. Parents often look to the clock for guidance on when to feed their baby. But instead, Seidel encourages families to focus on baby and how often he/she wants to eat.
A New, Convenient Way for Breastfeeding Help & Support
If you don’t want to leave your home but have questions about breastfeeding, there’s a new option to consider – virtual care.
“In my experience as a lactation consultant, I can see and assess a baby’s feeding pretty well over the secure connection. The computer still allows me to see how the baby is swallowing during feeding. Through virtual care, I helped a new mom adjust her positioning, and we were able to get a better latch,” Seidel says.
Seidel says virtual care isn’t for everyone – since most families don’t have a special baby scale to get a weigh to determine if the baby is getting enough milk. If the baby has been weighed at a pediatrician’s office, and the mother knows weight isn’t a concern, virtual care is a good option.
“Seeing the mom in her environment is also very helpful. We don’t have your chair, your couch or your bed in our office. Having a mom in her own personal environment is a big plus,” Seidel says.
If you want to try virtual care, call your UnityPoint Health lactation consultant and ask if it’s an option for you. They’ll help figure out what’s best. You’ll want to check with your insurance, but if you set up your appointment through your clinic or hospital, it’s usually covered by your insurance. If your care team determines virtual care isn’t for you, there are always in-person and over-the-phone options as well.