COVID-19 pandemic-related change in racial and ethnic disparities in exclusive breastmilk feeding during the delivery hospitalization: a differences-in-differences analysis

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Abstract

Objective: Exclusive breastmilk feeding during the delivery hospitalization, a Joint Commission indicator of perinatal care quality, is associated with longer-term breastfeeding success. Marked racial and ethnic disparities in breastfeeding exclusivity and duration existed prior to COVID-19. The pandemic, accompanied by uncertainty regarding intrapartum and postpartum safety practices, may have influenced disparities in infant feeding practices. Our objective was to examine whether the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City was associated with a change in racial and ethnic disparities in exclusive breastmilk feeding during the delivery stay. Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of electronic medical records from 14,964 births in two New York City hospitals. We conducted a difference-in-differences (DID) analysis to compare Black-white, Latina-white, and Asian-white disparities in exclusive breastmilk feeding in a pandemic cohort (April 1-July 31, 2020, n=3122 deliveries) to disparities in a pre-pandemic cohort (January 1, 2019-February 28, 2020, n=11,842). We defined exclusive breastmilk feeding as receipt of only breastmilk during delivery hospitalization, regardless of route of administration. We ascertained severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection status from reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests from nasopharyngeal swab at admission. For each DID model (e.g. Black-white disparity), we used covariate-adjusted log binomial regression models to estimate racial and ethnic risk differences, pandemic versus pre-pandemic cohort risk differences, and an interaction term representing the DID estimator. Results: Exclusive breastmilk feeding increased from pre-pandemic to pandemic among white (40.8% to 46.6%, p<0.001) and Asian (27.9% to 35.8%, p=0.004) women, but not Black (22.6% to 25.3%, p=0.275) or Latina (20.1% to 21.4%, p=0.515) women overall. There was an increase in the Latina-white exclusive breastmilk feeding disparity associated with the pandemic (DID estimator=6.3 fewer cases per 100 births (95% CI=-10.8, -1.9)). We found decreased breastmilk feeding specifically among SARS-CoV-2 positive Latina women (20.1% pre-pandemic vs. 9.1% pandemic p=0.013), and no change in Black-white or Asian-white disparities. Conclusions: We observed a pandemic-related increase in the Latina-white disparity in exclusive breastmilk feeding, urging hospital policies and programs to increase equity in breastmilk feeding and perinatal care quality during and beyond this health emergency.

Original languageEnglish
Article number225
JournalBMC Pregnancy and Childbirth
Volume22
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2022

Keywords

  • Breastfeeding
  • Breastmilk
  • COVID-19
  • Disparities
  • Infant
  • Nutrition

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