Maternal Health Leaders Share a Call to Action During National Breastfeeding Month
In recognition of National Breastfeeding Month in August, BehaVR and its partners authored a nationwide letter-to-the-editor to shine a light on the need for health care providers, insurers, IT and community leaders to work together to eliminate barriers to quality mental health and lactation support for all moms.
During the pandemic, hospital International Board-Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) were some of the first providers to be furloughed, and staffing has not returned to normal levels to serve all the needs of new breastfeeding moms. Due to the shortage, many moms face a slew of burdens such as being unassisted, under-informed, overly anxious and fearful regarding their breastfeeding concerns.
One can only imagine how this situation is amplified for minority and rural populations long plagued by the lack of proper maternal care. There are unique cultural barriers among diverse communities that are often left unaddressed.
Breastfeeding is not like portrayed on TV, and the latest statistics are telling a story of moms and babies being left under-nourished physically and emotionally which is leading to a 41 percent newborn re-admittance rate for feeding problems. Maternal false expectations about breastfeeding can lead to feelings of stress and anxiety that impacts both her health and her baby’s. Studies are now quantifying just how big of a toll the pandemic has taken on pregnant moms’ mental health, causing twice the rate of anxiety and depression, in large part due to limited time with OB/GYNs and lactation experts who also serve as a moms’ information providers and support system.
August is National Breastfeeding Month, a moment when we must raise the level of awareness to combat maternal healthcare problems.
It is through strategic partnerships and fresh ideas that we can blaze a trail to sustain change. Healthcare providers, health plans, IT and community leaders must partner to implement affordable and scalable ideas — like utilizing telemedicine, and the neurological power of virtual reality for mental health to solve for our nation’s maternal mental health and lactation support issues. Strong partnerships can empower and inform moms resulting in positive health outcomes for themselves and their children. Thinking bigger, together is the only path forward.
Aaron Gani, founder and CEO of BehaVR, maternal mental health via virtual reality
Lauren Majors, IBCLC, Sonder Health– telelactation and telenutrition services
Fran Ayalasomayajula, Save Moms– national maternal mortality and morbidity prevention campaign