Longitudinal changes in wellbeing amongst breastfeeding women in Australia and New Zealand during the COVID-19 pandemic

Eur J Pediatr. 2022 Oct;181(10):3753-3766. doi: 10.1007/s00431-022-04580-y. Epub 2022 Aug 17.


The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted new mothers' wellbeing and breastfeeding experience. Women have experienced changes in birth and postnatal care and restricted access to their support network. It is unclear how these impacts may have changed over time with shifting rates of infection and policies restricting movement and access to services in Australia and New Zealand. This study investigated the longitudinal effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on breastfeeding and maternal wellbeing in Australia and New Zealand. Mothers (n = 246) completed an online survey every 4 weeks for 6 months that examined feeding methods, maternal mental wellbeing, worries, challenges, and positive experiences during the pandemic. Mothers maintained high full breastfeeding rates at 4 months (81%) which decreased to 37% at 6 months. Perceived low milk supply contributed to the earlier cessation of full breastfeeding. Poor infant sleep was associated with stress, perinatal anxiety, mental wellbeing, and breastfeeding status. Although mothers initially reported that lockdowns helped with family bonding and less pressure, prolonged lockdowns appeared to have adverse effects on access to social networks and extended family support. Conclusion: The results highlight the changing dynamic of the pandemic and the need for adaptable perinatal services which allow mothers access to in-person services and their support network even in lockdowns. Similarly, access to continuous education and clinical care remains critical for women experiencing concerns about their milk supply, infant sleep, and their own wellbeing. What is Known: • The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown restrictions have significantly affected perinatal mental health, disrupted maternal services, and subsequent breastfeeding. What is New: • In Australia and New Zealand, breastfeeding women experienced challenges to their mental wellbeing, sleep, and breastfeeding, which was likely exacerbated over time by the pandemic. Lockdowns, while initially beneficial for some families, became detrimental to maternal support and wellbeing.

Keywords: Anxiety; Breastfeeding; COVID-19; Depression; Mental health; SARS-CoV-2.

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • COVID-19* / epidemiology
  • Communicable Disease Control
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mothers
  • New Zealand / epidemiology
  • Pandemics
  • Pregnancy