COVID-19 has put the kibosh on many in-person meetings inside and outside of Trinity Health. Thankfully, virtual meetings have been an option – and Trinity Health’s Family Birth Center has taken note and applied it to its classes and support groups.
Amanda Bekkedahl, RN, a certified lactation counselor with the Family Birth Center, led the first virtual class for Breastfeeding Basics in early November. This new modality for the class, which helps to educate new mothers on the basics of breastfeeding, had “a good response” among its participants; in-person meetings are more personal, Bekkedahl said, but noted that “virtual is the next best thing.”
“I felt like the women and their spouses that attended were able to give great feedback,” Bekkedahl said. “They were in the comfort of their home, they could be seen or not – they had that choice – and I felt they were more comfortable asking questions because they were in a comfortable setting for them.”
The Family Birth Center’s Breast Is Best support group, which began last year, was held at a local coffee house, but the in-person meetings – held the third Tuesday of each month – ceased due to COVID-19. Recently, the support group switched to a virtual format.
“The continued support is what we really want to accomplish. We don’t want them to go home and feel alone or feel they can’t ask questions,” she said. “We want to make sure there is continued support. It may not be in person, but we can still be helpful to each other.”
Breast Is Best is peer-led, “so it’s not just medical people talking to them,” she said. “It’s other mothers in the community with the same challenges or obstacles. It provides that network we all need so desperately, especially right now.”
She noted that it is important that women are feeling supported after giving birth, “especially in the winter months when we aren’t going out.”
“As long as their breastfeeding is ongoing, we don’t want them to lose that support,” Bekkedahl added. “It’s also a great way for them to connect with other moms and women when we aren’t as social as we have been in the past.”
Ongoing education about breastfeeding is important, Bekkedahl said, noting that a few mothers have told her they have switched to formula because of COVID-19. “We want them breastfeeding. That’s the healthiest thing for their babies.”
While there has been concern about breastfeeding during the pandemic, Bekkedahl assures that breastfeeding “is the best thing for their babies, especially now.” Breast milk provides antibodies “for illnesses that are going around at the time,” she added.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 Breastfeeding Report Card, released in August 2018, stated that of the approximately 4 million babies born in 2015, 83.2 percent started out breastfeeding. However, many stopped earlier than recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics’ Policy on Breastfeeding recommends that good nutrition starts with breastfeeding exclusively for roughly the first six months of life. While nearly six in 10 infants are still breastfeeding at six months of age, only a quarter are breastfeeding exclusively.
To register for Breastfeeding Basics or Breast is Best, as well as the Prepared Childbirth class, click here. All are free of charge. Classes and meetings will remain virtual “for the foreseeable future,” Bekkedahl said.