Breastfeeding services in key areas for families, particularly during COVID pandemic

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Access to high quality breastfeeding support across regions and within healthcare programming in British Columbia, Canada was inconsistent prior to the crisis.
The current situation has only exacerbated the pre-existing lack of support through re-deployment of public health resources and social distancing, making it even more difficult for breastfeeding families to achieve their goals.  Yet when breastfeeding is going well, it provides a vital safety net to families by ensuring a safe, secure, reliable food source, immunological support to the infant and down-regulates the stress response for the breastfeeding mother & infant.
BCLCA has a position statement outlining the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on the families we serve and arguing that increasing support in key areas will minimize the potential for negative effects on the next generation. Specifically, we argue for implementation of the following key strategies in order to provide support for families to achieve their infant feeding goals at this critical time:
Immediately act to ensure universal access to lactation consultant services through 811 or create a dedicated provincial infant feeding support line, similar to what is available in Ontario.
• Minimize the erosion of existing breastfeeding and other
maternal/child prevention services (e.g. postpartum mental health support).
• Establish a provincial virtual prenatal education program that includes evidence informed breastfeeding content.
• Scale up and invest in peer support services, such as La Leche League Canada to provide virtual supports; however, for sustainability it is preferable for these programs provide remuneration to workers.
• Develop regional lactation consultant positions in order to support healthcare workers and primary care providers serving families in evidence-based infant feeding practices.
• For families requiring specialized help, consider lactation services billable to MSP or ensure access to these services through the creation of clinical positions in locations providing birthing services, prioritizing those facilities with NICU’s.

Optimal infant feeding is not an individual responsibility with only individual consequences: now more than ever we need to have the supports in place to help families achieve their infant feeding goals. The current crisis is an opportunity for us to re-evaluate our priorities and decide if breastfeeding is worth a real investment.