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Research article: How has the pandemic affected LactApp?

Research article: How has the pandemic affected LactApp?

This month, the LactApp research team published a research article on the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on LactApp consultations (1) in the journal Telemedicine and e-Health.

This study has evaluated on one hand the increase in consultations and users due to the pandemic. On the other hand, whether the pandemic has led to a change in the consultation pattern of users, especially at the beginning.

For this purpose, an interrupted time series model was created with LactApp data from 2017 to 2021 and it was observed that during the onset of the pandemic and lockdown, both, active users (increased by 12,092 users) and consultations (increased by 10,899 consultations per month) in the LactApp App, increased significantly. This translated into a 133% rise in active users and a 116% rise in LactApp queries.

The study found that certain topics consulted during the first year of the pandemic changed from the previous year (pre-pandemic). For example, there was a significant increase in consultations – first automatic and then those answered by experts – on breastfeeding technique, breast pain and mastitis, problems with infants who do not gain weight appropriately, hypogalactia and the sensation of low milk supply, increased demand in feeding, relactation and growth spurts (breastfeeding crisis). On the other hand, there were topics that did not change in the number of consultations with respect to the pre-pandemic period, such as tandem breastfeeding, breastfeeding of twins/triplets, breastmilk pumping, milk donation, baby care, baby’s sleep and breastfeeding, menstruation and fertility, pregnancy and breastfeeding, return to work and weaning.

In the LactApp consultation chat channel, where queries are answered by experts, it was also noted that at the beginning and during the first year of the pandemic, queries about mastitis and breast pain and how to achieve optimal latch increased.

Previous studies found that restrictive measures due to Covid-19 affected women’s well-being during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal care period (2).  Face-to-face support from lactation specialists was also restricted and, consequently, mothers experienced higher levels of stress and isolation (3). There are even studies reporting that exclusive breastfeeding rates may have declined during the pandemic in England, Italy, the United States, and Canada (4-8) due to shorter hospital stays at birth, poor professional support throughout the first days of life and concerns about if breastfeeding would be safe with Covid-19 symptoms.

In this study conducted by LactApp, it is evident that due to the lack of in-person professional support mothers sought information and breastfeeding support online on LactApp, especially on critical issues when initiating and establishing breastfeeding, such as poor latch, perceived low milk supply, breast pain and not optimal infant weight gain, which were highly consulted at the onset of the pandemic and during the lockdowns. Therefore, we believe that LactApp was a useful tool for breastfeeding support when women were unable to find adequate face-to-face support.

References: 

  1. Quifer-Rada P, Aguilar-Camprubí L, Padró-Arocas A, Gómez-Sebastià I, Mena-Tudela D. Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic in Breastfeeding Consultations on LactApp, an m-Health Solution for Breastfeeding Support. Telemed e-Health. 2022;00(00):1–9.
  2. Coxon K, Turienzo CF, Kweekel L, Goodarzi B, Brigante L, Simon A, et al. The impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on maternity care in Europe. Midwifery. 2020;88:102779.
  3. Hull N, Kam RL, Gribble KD. Providing breastfeeding support during the COVID-19 pandemic: Concerns of mothers who contacted the Australian Breastfeeding Association. medRxiv. 2020 Jul 20;28(3).
  4. Rice K, Williams S. Women’s postpartum experiences in Canada during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study. C Open. 2021 Apr 21;9(2):E556–62.
  5. Vazquez-Vazquez A, Dib S, Rougeaux E, Wells JC, Fewtrell MS. The impact of the Covid-19 lockdown on the experiences and feeding practices of new mothers in the UK: Preliminary data from the COVID-19 New Mum Study. Appetite. 2021 Jan 1;156:104985.
  6. Snyder K, Worlton G. Social Support During COVID-19: Perspectives of Breastfeeding Mothers. Breastfeed Med. 2021 Jan 18;16(1):39–45.
  7. Zanardo V, Tortora D, Guerrini P, Garani G, Severino L, Soldera G, et al. Infant feeding initiation practices in the context of COVID-19 lockdown. Early Hum Dev. 2021 Jan 1;152:105286.
  8. Brown A, Shenker N. Experiences of breastfeeding during COVID-19: Lessons for future practical and emotional support. Matern Child Nutr. 2021 Jan 1;17(1):e13088.
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