Food matters: How virus crisis is affecting feeding of under-twos

Food matters: How virus crisis is affecting feeding of under-twos
A portrait of a bug eyed cute dirty-faced 6-9 months.

An online survey to determine how the Covid-19 crisis is affecting caregivers feeding young children has been launched by Technological University Dublin researchers.

Dr Liz O’Sullivan and Dr Aileen Kennedy, both lecturers on the Human Nutrition & Dietetics and Public Health Nutrition programmes at TU Dublin, want to hear from caregivers of children aged two years or younger about their experiences of how the coronavirus restrictions are affecting them.

Dr Kennedy says it’s already known breastfeeding can be undermined by lack of support, particularly in the early days. A mum of two, she recalls looking outside her own family for support with breastfeeding because nobody close to her had breastfed.

Food matters: How virus crisis is affecting feeding of under-twos

“It’s a cultural fact that there’s lack of support in Ireland due to low breastfeeding rates. In the current crisis, the groups to which new mums would have looked for support aren’t there in the same way and many mums haven’t had ante-natal classes. There’s huge learning for new mums around breastfeeding – without a support system it can be difficult to gain the confidence,” she says. 

The researchers have also heard about challenges parents are currently having around sourcing infant formula.

 “We’re concerned about low-income families, who rely on public transport to get to shops. They can be struggling to get to the shop to get the formula they need. We’re hearing about single parents finding it stressful to go shopping when their children are with them – it’s an additional stress on top of feeding,” says Dr Kennedy.

Some mothers, she adds, may be watering down formula due to inadequate supply, while others don’t know how to prepare it because they haven’t been taught.

The researchers are also eager to hear from parents with babies in neonatal units. 

Some neonatal units are restricting [parental] visits. We’re interested in understanding how that’s affecting breastfeeding. Some units have restricted access to only 15 minutes daily for mothers. Stress can affect breast-milk supply. So if mum isn’t able to see her child too often, that’s an added stress that will affect supply.

The researchers plan to use the data collected to strengthen the argument for development of a National Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Plan, which has been recommended for all countries by WHO.

“We’re aware food banks, charities and schools are delivering lunches to families, so we’re keen to hear from all kinds of families [countrywide] about their experiences. It will help us think about what supports to put in place to help families in future emergencies.”

To participate in the survey see:  exa.mn/InfantFeeding


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