Multidisciplinary Center for Infectious Diseases (MCID)

Overcoming barriers to breastfeeding in Switzerland during infectious disease pandemics

Applicant: Dr. Jessica Laine Carmeli (Cluster: Epidemiology)

Recipient of MCID Early Career Research Grant for Women (ECRG-W)

Institute of Preventive Medicine (ISPM)

Despite intentions to breastfeed and the fact that pregnant women and persons, and mothers are generally aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, they experience several barriers to breastfeeding, resulting in most not achieving their breastfeeding goals nor public health recommendations for breastfeeding. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing barriers for breastfeeding and created new ones. The goals of this study are to assess multiple barriers and facilitators to breastfeeding in Switzerland during infectious disease pandemics, within the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, and to derive actions (i.e., policies) that could aid in overcoming these barriers. Barriers to breastfeeding exist at multiple levels, ranging from intrapersonal (e.g., self-knowledge of benefits of breastfeeding), but are not solely rooted in these aspects of knowledge deficits or decision-making, where higher levels (e.g., national policies) likely play a more central role during infectious disease outbreaks. Using a unique research framework of community based participatory research, where diverse groups (e.g., mothers, those involved in perinatal care of midwives, obstetrics, and postnatal care including lactation consultants, among others) will come together to share their perspectives from different knowledge systems, we will assess barriers and facilitators to breastfeeding during pandemics. Results can inform comprehensive care models and policies, which are likely to be more sustainable and effective as they are more tailored to individual and community needs.