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Either ‘a blessing in disguise’, or ‘I couldn't get help,’: Australian and Aotearoa NZ women's experiences of early infant feeding during COVID-19
journal contributionposted on 2023-02-15, 22:22 authored by M Atchan, K Graham, Nicki HartneyNicki Hartney, R Martis, L Kearney, K Davey, R Daellenbach, H Hall, Linda SweetLinda Sweet
Background: To manage the COVID-19 pandemic, public health restrictions and a rapid pivot to telehealth occurred. Peripartum services were significantly affected by a strained infrastructure. Decreased face to face access to health services and support affected maternal experiences and confidence internationally, yet little was reported with the Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand context. Aim: To explore the early parenting and infant feeding experiences of new mothers from Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand in the context of a pandemic. Methods: An interpretive qualitative approach and thematic analysis obtained an in-depth understanding of the experiences of 27 mothers who gave birth during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Findings: Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand women reported similar experiences, which varied contextually. Restrictions and requirements impacted favourably and unfavourably. Many women found the peace and space of social distancing an unexpected benefit and were proud of their achievements, whilst others shared feelings of isolation and distress. Some women felt they instinctively did what they needed to do. Experiences correlated with differing levels of self-efficacy. Discussion: While many women relished the freedom from social obligations when faced with feeding challenges, there was general dissatisfaction with the level of support available. Care was fragmented, and health care needs were unmet, impacting feeding and parenting decisions and mental health. Conclusion: Access to timely and appropriate professional support is an important factor in establishing breastfeeding and developing parenting confidence, particularly in the context of a pandemic and should be a health policy priority.