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Gunes AO, Dincer E, Karadag N, Topcuoglu S, Karatekin G. Effects of COVID-19 pandemic on breastfeeding rates in a neonatal intensive care unit. J Perinat Med. 2021 Jan 6:jpm-2020-0462. doi: 10.1515/jpm-2020-0462. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 33554582.

Objectives: To find out if the expressed breast milk delivery rate to neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for babies who were hospitalized for any reason other than COVID-19, and exclusive breastfeeding (EB) rates between discharge date and 30th day of life of those babies were affected by COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: Babies who were hospitalized before the date first coronavirus case was detected in our country were included as control group (CG). The study group was divided into two groups; study group 1 (SG1): the mothers whose babies were hospitalized in the period when mother were asked not to bring breast milk to NICU, study group 2 (SG2): the mothers whose babies were hospitalized after the date we started to use the informed consent form for feeding options. The breast milk delivery rates to NICU during hospitalization and EB rates between discharge and 30th day of life were compared between groups.

Results: Among 154 mother-baby dyads (CG, n=50; SG1, n=46; SG2, n=58), the percentage of breast milk delivery to NICU was 100%, 79% for CG, SG2, respectively (p<0.001). The EB rate between discharge and 30th day of life did not change between groups (CG:90%, SG1:89%, SG2:75.9; p=0.075).

Conclusions: If the mothers are informed about the importance of breast milk, the EB rates are not affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in short term, even if the mothers are obligatorily separated from their babies. The breast milk intake rate of the babies was lowest while our NICU protocol was uncertain, and after we prepared a protocol this rate increased.

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