Breastfeeding / Lactation Support during COVID-19

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Currently, no one can predict with a 100% certainty what our future holds. What we do know is that human milk provides a baby’s first and best choice for protection against infectious diseases during the first year of life. Now, more than ever, new parents have to do everything in their power to protect breastfeeding since breast milk is not only immune protection but also the ultimate sustainable food source. Breastfeeding also go beyond immunology and nutrition. The breastfeeding relationship offers a powerful source of comfort for a parent and baby while helping to facilitate their bonding and connection PLUS building physical, social, and mental health foundations for baby that can have lasting effects until adulthood.  

 

As you know, to stop the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), causing the disease coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the National Government have announced a lockdown across South Africa, (though having a newborn is socially isolating anyway). To help cope with the uncertainty and resulting stress of this unprecedented global pandemic we have to find peace in the fact that we are doing our part to “flatten the curve” through:

- staying at home (social/physical distancing),

- keeping distance between ourselves and others when shopping,

- washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol,

- covering our mouths and nose with elbow or a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throwing away the used tissue,

- wearing a cloth mask when going out &

- self-quarantining if experiencing any flu-like symptoms like fever, cough, etc.

 

Being in lockdown, limits parents access to practical support and in-person face-to-face counselling. Worrying about breastfeeding and related issues may be adding to an already stressful situation. Every time we venture outside the house, there is a risk of exposing oneself and baby to a potentially deadly virus.

 

However, there is a solution! Use “Telehealth”* as an option to talk to an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) if you have any breastfeeding or lactation issues!  

Leana has been helping families at the Breastfeeding Clinic in Somerset West and Stellenbosch for many years, while also teaching antenatal classes in Stellenbosch and working at a local NGO. For the last 10 (of said many) year she has been, and still is, an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant), considered world-wide as the GOLD standard in lactation care. 

An IBCLC is a specialist trained to focus on the needs and concerns of the breastfeeding family and to prevent, recognize and solve breastfeeding difficulties. IBCLCs have a governing board, IBLCE, meaning they are accountable, act with due diligence, practice evidenced based health, follow a code of ethics, practice within their scope, stay up to date with latest research, recertify every 5 years, etc. (read more at iblce.org, here you can also verify if someone is indeed a certified Lactation Consultant.) As a registered nurse, midwife, psychiatric- and community health nurse, Leana knows how little lactation education in breastfeeding support health professional receive during their training. Though many health professionals have gone to great lengths to gain more knowledge and understanding of how to support breastfeeding families, research shows many health professional often lack current knowledge about breastfeeding and lack assessment and therapeutic skills pertaining to lactation.

 

Lactation trained lay and professional support, extend duration of breastfeeding and face-to-face counselling is the most effective intervention in increasing breastfeeding rates and duration. Before lockdown many families have visited the free weigh-in-quick-question clinic on Thursday mornings at Motherhood Village at 22 Dirkie Uys Street in Somerset West. Here parents have a save space to receive support and also provide support to other parents ;-). Amanda (a La Leche League Leader and WOMBS Doula have been helping at the clinic for many years. The free weigh-in-quick-question clinic have recently reopened! 

To schedule a one-on-one private consultation with your IBCLC please WhatsApp Leana at 083 415 4657 or visit the Contact page.

We are able to assist with normal, challenging, and/or unusual breastfeeding situations such as:

  • antenatal breastfeeding sessions (digest information in a quiet, peaceful way, figure out what you want, what you know, where you want to take your breastfeeding relationship)

  • assisting with the non-latching baby during the early postpartum days / coping with a disorganized suck & protecting the milk supply

  • coping with engorgement

  • help baby get a deeper latch (NOT “correct” a “poor” latch! No judgement here. Breastfeeding is a relationship!)  

  • first post-discharge visit (within the first week) to check baby’s latch, weight, help parents with possible engorgement, answer new-parent concerns

  • weekly weight checks for the 1st 6 weeks, then every 2nd week until 3 months, then monthly until a year, then every 2nd or 3rd month until 2 years

  • breastfeeding information and support when going back to work

  • addressing “not enough” milk

  • coping with breast “refusal” (newborns may have inability to latch immediacy but can’t “refuse”, older babies can refuse ;-)

  • dealing with faltered growth

  • help with baby with arched palate & tethered oral tissues (commonly known as tongue tie/lip tie)

  • investigate reason for sore nipples not responding to routine care

  • breastfeeding multiples and premature babies

  • breastfeeding after breast surgery

  • help with nipple/breast conditions such as blocked ducts, milk blisters, vasospasm, thrush infections, Mammary Constriction Syndrome, etc.

  • resource for medications in mother's milk

  • starting solids

  • any much more!

 

Read here for tips how to build your mental strength to help combat this stressful, unprecedented global pandemic. Focus on the things you can control: what you think, what you feel, what you do and say. All the best! Stay healthy! Wash your hands! And don’t touch your face!

 

*IBLCE (the International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners) in their Advisory Opinion dated 3 April 2020 stated, “Telehealth is an available option for IBCLCs provided it is permitted in a particular country of practice.” The HPCSA amended their original Telemedicine Guidelines during COVID-19 (dated 3 April 2020) stating, “Telehealth should preferably be practised in circumstances where there is an already established practitioner-patient relationship. Where such a relationship does not exist, practitioner may still consult using Telehealth provided that such consultations are done in the best clinical interest of patients.”

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Baby Ilse at 5 minutes old
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The Breastfeeding Clinic in Somerset West is facilitated by Leana Habeck, B Cur (Stell) RN, RM, RPN, CHN, Dip Peri Ed (UJ), Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Trainer of trainers, mother of 3