Publication date: Jul 14, 2023
Despite efforts to encourage breastfeeding, exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) rates in the Bronx remain suboptimal. Hospital restrictions and uncertainty surrounding the side effects of COVID-19 greatly impacted the mother-infant dyad during the postpartum hospitalization. Preliminary studies found an initial decrease in EBF, but lasting effects remain unknown. This study aimed to investigate the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on birth hospitalization EBF rates among a high-risk urban patient population. A retrospective chart review was conducted on all newborns admitted to the newborn nursery at an urban medical center between 2019 and 2021. Patients were separated into pre-pandemic and pandemic cohorts. Patient demographics, maternal comorbidities, length of stay, feeding method, and newborn characteristics, including status as high risk for hypoglycemia, were collected. EBF was defined as receiving only mother’s milk during the birth hospitalization. Descriptive statistics and bivariate analysis were used to examine the data. 630 pre-pandemic and 643 pandemic newborns were included. The cohorts did not differ in baseline maternal characteristics. Pre-pandemic newborns were less likely to be high risk (23. 3% vs. 29. 4%, p= 0. 01), more likely to see the hospital lactation consultant (53. 2% vs. 24. 0%, p< 0. 001), and had a longer average length of stay (63. 4 vs. 54. 5 hours, p< 0. 001). Most infants in both cohorts received some breastmilk during the hospitalization (97. 6% vs. 94. 6%, NS). There was no difference in EBF between cohorts among all newborns (9. 5% vs. 11. 4%, p= 0. 29), or among non-high-risk newborns (12. 2% vs. 15. 0%, p=0. 22). EBF rates in the Bronx, NY did not change during the pandemic period, despite an increase in high-risk newborns. Further investigation into the effect of lactation consultation, maternal race, ethnicity, and primary language should be further explored to understand the implications of healthcare disparities on the mother-infant dyad.