Paper Authors and Title
Abigail Bacon (Technological University Dublin), Elizabeth O’Sullivan, “The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Women’s Breastfeeding Experience Within the Irish Healthcare System”
Upon the emergence of Covid-19, there were international concerns regarding breastfeeding and other forms of infant feeding. The aim of this study isto investigate women’s experiences breastfeeding in Ireland during the pandemic and to assess how/why Covid-19 effected these experiences both positively and negatively.
Pre-collected data from an online survey conducted in Ireland in 2022 by TU Dublin and Bainne Beatha was used. Eligible participants included women who had breastfed/considered breastfeeding between 2019-2021. Data associated with Covid-19 included responses to three questions related to Covid-19’s impact on the breastfeeding experience/access to breastfeeding supports. NVivo 12 was used for qualitative/thematic analysis and SPSS was used to triangulate findings with quantitative analysis.
5,412 women responded to the survey, with 2,756 providing responses to the qualitative section of the survey used to develop themes. The three themes developed include: Covid-19’s effect on social support while breastfeeding, Covid-19’s effect on participant’s time and space, and variation in accessibility/quality of medical support. A significant association was observed between previous breastfeeding experience and how participants felt Covid-19 effected their breastfeeding experience.
Overall, women’s experiences breastfeeding during Covid-19 regarding isolation and medical support, varied significantly. While actions can be taken to improve breastfeeding experiences in Ireland, e.g., improvement of social support, the observed diversity in experiences must be considered when developing future policies to avoid potential negative impacts on women with different preferences. Furthermore, future research should be carried out to better understand these variations in experiences so they may be better accommodated in the future.