Is COVID-19 affecting how children are fed?

New survey looking for participants
  • Deborah Condon

Irish researchers want to find out if COVID-19 has affected the way young children are fed.

Researchers at Technological University Dublin (TU Dublin) are conducting an online survey, which aims to determine if the current pandemic has affected how caregivers feed their children aged two and under.

They plan to use the data collected to strengthen the argument for the development of a National Infant and Young Child Feeding in Emergencies Plan, which has been recommended for all countries by the World Health Organization (WHO).

According to TU Dublin lecturer, Dr Liz O'Sullivan, it is already known that emergencies can adversely affect how people feed their children.

"We tend to think of natural disasters as typical emergencies, but COVID-19 is also a type of emergency. Breastfeeding can be undermined by a lack of support, or the use of supplemental formula or formula feeds can be improperly prepared or watered down because of low supplies. We want to find out what the Irish situation is during this crisis," Dr O'Sullivan explained.

According to TU Dublin lecturer, Dr Aileen Kennedy, there have been stories about mothers finding it difficult to get help with breastfeeding, while for those bottle feeding, there have been stories about difficulties sourcing infant formula.

"We want to find out how many people had these problems and hear about any other struggles parents or caregivers may have with feeding children," she explained.

The researchers also want to hear from parents with babies in neonatal care units.

"Some neonatal units are restricting the visits of parents, and we are interested in understanding how that is affecting breastfeeding. Hospitals have implemented innovative solutions enabling parents to see their babies while physical visiting is limited, but parents may be still having challenges with feeding their child.

"Hearing directly from caregivers will help us understand the types of support that would have made their experience of feeding their new baby easier, so that we can learn from this crisis," Dr Kennedy said.

Meanwhile, the researchers are also interested in whether this crisis is affecting low-income families more, or those relying on public transport, as they may be limited in what they can purchase at any one time.

"We are aware that food banks, charities and schools throughout the country are delivering lunches to families, so we are keen to hear from all kinds of families all over the country about their experiences," Dr O'Sullivan noted.

The survey, which is open to all caregivers of children aged two or younger, will run for one month from May 11.

It will ask some background questions, including about what children have been eating. Other questions will be about problems caregivers might have experienced with breastfeeding, formula feeding, and access to food during the COVID-19 crisis.

The information collected will be essential in planning for other emergencies, such as loss of electricity and services due to storms, or boil water notices when the water supply is contaminated.

To take part in the survey, click here.

 


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