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Type Working Paper
Title Lockdown-associated hunger may be affecting breastfeeding: Findings from a large SMS survey in South Africa
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2021
There are growing concerns on the impact of COVID-19 on food security and child health in South Africa. A rapid SMS Maternal and Child Health survey was conducted in South Africa in June (n=3140) with a follow up in July (n=2287). Breastfeeding practices found in this survey confirmed findings from other studies: with high breastfeeding initiation rates and early introduction of other foods/mixed milk feeding. Logistic regression was conducted to explore the associations between breastfeeding, maternal depression and hunger in the household. The odds of hungry mothers breastfeeding were significantly lower (OR = 0.66; 95% CI: 0.44, 0.99). The prevalence of depression in this survey sample was 26.95%, but there was no association between breastfeeding behaviour and depression scores (OR = 0.89; 95% CI: 0.63, 1.27). A positive correlation was found between not breastfeeding and not going to the health clinic. Breastfeeding needs to be protected, promoted and supported; and mothers should be encouraged to continue to attend the health clinic. Further to communication to communities, supporting the breastfeeding mother to enable her to breastfeed and feel competent to do so is a critical gap that needs to be addressed. This support could include economic support to enable her to access a nutritious diet. Mothers also need reassurance on the quality of their breastmilk and their ability to breastfeed. Aside from the nutritional superiority, the safety and immune benefits of breastmilk may need to be asserted to counter concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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