Journal of Human Lactation
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Background: With strict public health measures implemented in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many breastfeeding parents, who are within an at-risk population, have experienced limited formal and/or informal breastfeeding social support. In the Canadian context, the experiences of these women is unknown. Research Aim: To explore the experiences of at-risk postpartum breastfeeding women in accessing formal and informal breastfeeding social support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: This was a prospective, longitudinal interpretive description study using mixed methods. Data were gathered using an online survey and one 52–112-min semi-structured interview at 12-weeks postpartum. At-risk breastfeeding participants were those who lack social support and had at least one of the following: age < 25 years; experiencing or had experienced intimate partner violence; or of low income. We sought participants’ experiences of accessing breastfeeding social support during the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdown. Seven participants completed the survey and the interview. Results: Participants identified that the COVID-19 pandemic created barriers to accessing formal and informal breastfeeding social support, which stemmed from public health restrictions and difficulties communicating online with families and healthcare providers. Additionally, participants identified that the COVID-19 pandemic/lockdowns facilitated feelings of connectedness, protection, and resiliency. Conclusion: We provide preliminary insight into the experiences of trying to access breastfeeding social support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Future researchers should seek to prioritize improved communication and resources in supporting breastfeeding during COVID-19 and future pandemics/lockdowns.