Mothers who have stopped breastfeeding are looking to start lactating again to boost their baby's immune system during the pandemic, according to the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Breastfeeding Information and Research senior manager Naomi Hull said inquiries into re-lactation accounted for 14 per cent of all discussions since coronavirus hit Australia in March.
"It's quite unusual for us but we've had many women call to ask about breastfeeding again after they've already stopped. Some have weaned their babies and want to know how to reverse it," Ms Hull said.
"Mothers understand that breast milk has anti-viral properties that help to protect their baby from whatever the mother is exposed to." Normally, re-lactation wouldn't even rank in the top 20 reasons for women calling the Breastfeeding Association's helpline. During COVID-19 it ranked in the top four.
The association also reported that 26 per cent of calls were from mothers who wanted to improve their breast milk supply and breastfeed their babies for longer.
One reason for this is that mothers want to provide their babies with the best possible immune system. But another is to have a reliable food source as bushfire season comes around.
"Imagine you're a formula-feeding mum on that beach at Mallacoota during the bushfires, and you have no access to formula. You don't have food security for your baby," Ms Hull said.
"It's a big issue, so we don't advise women to wean their babies during bushfire season if possible."
With most face-to-face breastfeeding classes cancelled during the pandemic, the last few months have been an isolating and uncertain time for new and expecting mothers.
As a result, breastfeeding services like the Association have been experiencing a high volume of calls to their helpline.
"Our average call length to our helpline has increased from 12 minutes to 16 minutes, and the number of calls increased from an average of 600 a month to 800-1000 calls in April alone," Ms Hull said.
"We noticed that there's an increase in women saying they're worried about accessing face-to-face medical services due to fear of exposure."
The breastfeeding association is currently calling for more funding to support the implementation of the government's National Breastfeeding Strategy.
The goal of the strategy is to create a breastfeeding friendly society and ensure 40 per cent of Australian babies are fully breastfeed to six-months-old by 2022.
During the pandemic, however, Ms Hull said it was vital women know the Breastfeeding Association is here to help them when they need it.
"A lot of the time, mothers want to breastfeed and they just aren't able to access the support and information when they need it," Ms Hull said.
"Mothers need someone to talk to who understands what they're going through."
- You can access the Australian Breastfeeding Association's services at https://www.breastfeeding.asn.au/