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Pandemic hospital restrictions reduce visitors, increase breastfeeding success

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — There’s a possible bright side to the COVID-19 restrictions in hospitals. Some doctors are seeing more success when it comes to new moms breastfeeding.

Doctors at IU Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis said without as many hospital visitors, they’re noticing moms having more one-on-one time with baby and successfully breastfeeding. While there aren’t any hard numbers yet, they said this could be a silver lining to the pandemic.

“It is okay to feel like the world is crashing down because we don’t talk about it enough,” said Mukti Patel. 

Photo of Ari Patel. (Provided Photo)

Patel gave birth to her son, Ari, in Indianapolis back in August. While she is overjoyed to be Ari’s mom, she said it is time to talk about how hard being a new mom is.

“A lot of moms have anxiety because of COVID-19 with breastfeeding,” said Patel.

For Patel, the social isolation and postpartum mental health ups and downs due to the pandemic, haven’t been easy. Neither was learning to breastfeed, however, she said having fewer hospital visitors seemed to help.

“I think not having anyone there, like visitors, I think it helped because for me, Ari didn’t really latch very well, so we had the lactation consultant in our room every day, every feeding,” said Patel. “So, it was kind of nice for us to not have any visitors and it be me, my husband and her in our hospital room.”

Hospitals across the country have shifted to a similar policy of no visitors in the maternity ward, and just one support person to help mom.

“It has been a little bit of a mixed blessing that families get a little bit more one-on-one time with their new baby and that I think has definitely made it a little bit easier to breastfeed,” said Dr. Patrick Clements. 

Dr. Clements is a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health and is the medical director for Newborn Care at IU Health Methodist Hospital. He said while there aren’t any numbers to prove the success yet, the new restrictions seem to help moms to rest, recover and focus on the baby.

Breastfeeding is natural, but not always easy. Dr. Clements said recently it seems like mothers and newborn babies are getting more time to practice and perfect feedings, in private.

“For families that are wanting to exclusively breastfeed, what we are trying to do is eliminate any hindrance, anything that might make it a little bit extra hard for breastfeeding. So, I think that is where the visitor restrictions have potentially had that silver lining effect,” said Clements.

Doctors said it’s also important for moms to know that if they do get COVID-19, they should continue to breastfeed because the antibodies will transfer to the baby. While COVID-19 has certainly increased stress on new parents. Patel said this is change might stick around.

“It opened up my eyes to where if I did have a second baby, I actually wouldn’t want visitors,” said Patel.