Our actions to make this world more baby-friendly
Helping Babies and Families amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 has hugely altered our daily lives, with changes including social distancing, voluntary and mandatory restrictions on going out, and even citywide lockdowns. In the forty weeks since the World Health Organization officially declared a pandemic on May 11, around 116 million babies have been born around the globe.
To support these babies and their families, employees across the Pigeon Group’s worldwide network of companies and offices have launched self-directed initiatives based on the needs of their local communities.
Changes in Birthing and Childrearing Environments Due to COVID-19
The ongoing pandemic has only increased the anxieties mothers-to-be have about possible dangers to their unborn children, as well and birth and childrearing. With reports that women who are infected with COVID-19 in the late stages of pregnancy are at higher risk of severe symptoms,* expectant mothers and their families must take every precaution against infection.
* Japan Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: https://www.jaog.or.jp/about/project/document/covid19_200916
Many of these women have changed their prenatal exam schedule. Some have done this out of concern that visiting hospitals and clinics may increase their risk of infection. Others are having difficulty finding somewhere to watch other small children while they are undergoing their exams. At the same time, due to official guidance discouraging non-urgent outings and events, local governments and companies are canceling planned parenting classes and seminars for expectant mothers. This reduces the opportunities those women have to obtain information about pregnancy, childbirth, and raising children. It also means they have almost no way to meet other mothers-to-be with similar expected delivery dates, so that many give birth feeling lonely and isolated. And, of course, great numbers of baby showers had to be cancelled.
In some cases, if an expectant mother is infected with COVID-19, she is no longer permitted to give birth at her hospital of choice, and must find another. Combined with restrictions on going out, this means that many mothers have been forced to abandon carefully made plans for childbirth, including some who were planning to return to their family home for postnatal support.
Because hospital patients can have weakened immune systems, strict anti-infection measures apply not just to health workers but also to families and friends visiting patients. Some maternity wards no longer allow partners to be present at the delivery, while others ban visitors altogether, forcing mothers in countries around the world to deliver their babies alone. These restrictions also apply to NICUs caring for low birthweight babies, meaning that some mothers are unable to hold their newborn babies for days.
(Information current as of October 2020.)
For fathers, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced opportunities to prepare for fatherhood during their partner’s pregnancy. Parenting classes, being present at the delivery, and even going out to buy supplies are all more difficult than ever. As a result, many fathers are finding that it takes longer than usual for the reality of parenthood to hit them.
During the puerperium and postpartum period, mothers face a significant burden. In the past, families could hire babysitters or nannies to help share this load, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult to employ such assistance on anything other than a live-in basis due to everything from anti-infection measures to national entry restrictions. This increases stress and anxiety for both housework and childcare workers, who can find themselves without employment offer support for housework and childrearing, and parents facing the prospect of raising children without any assistance whatsoever.
“Making the World More Baby-Friendly”
“Making the world more baby-friendly” is our Purpose, our reason for being and the role we should play in society, and the Pigeon Group is undertaking activities in ways only it can to help ease the anxieties and difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Supporting New and Expectant Mothers and Fathers
In Japan, the United States, Malaysia, China, Singapore, and other areas, Pigeon is reaching out in a range of ways to mothers and fathers dealing with the unease of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these outreach efforts include using social media to address common concerns with the help of pediatricians and other specialists, holding online breastfeeding seminars, and providing information about childcare. By creating a direct connection with parents the world over and addressing challenges one by one, we have helped ease and resolve their concerns. This online connection was achieved with the assistance of specialists and medical personnel, and we plan to expand it in future.
Connecting mothers and children separated by travel restrictions
Singapore has a population of 5.7 million residents. Around 30% of those residents are migrant workers, 44% of whom come from the neighboring country of Malaysia. Many work as live-in confinement nannies in Singapore, returning to Malaysia once a week to spend time with their own families.
However, when international travel restrictions were put in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, these women were faced with an agonizing choice: either give up on seeing their families back home in Malaysia, or return to Malaysia and spend two weeks in quarantine at the risk of losing their positions in Singapore. Most of them chose the former. Those with babies of nursing age can no longer give them the breast milk they once could directly. To support these mothers, Pigeon provides breast milk storage bags and pumps free of charge allowing them to send breast milk to their children at home in Malaysia.
Protecting the Health and Safety of Employees and Local Communities
Pigeon has a duty to ensure a stable supply of baby goods. To ensure that we can continue to fulfill this duty in the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pigeon Group is taking uncompromising measures to prevent infection in every country, seeking to introduce and establish new patterns of behavior while prioritizing the continued employment of our staff. In Japan, since February, we have instituted remote work for, in principle, all pregnant employees. We have also stopped all in-store sales activities that involve face-to-face meetings with customers. We were quick to establish flexible working systems around telework and staggered shifts at our offices and factories in Japan and globally, and continue to work on these areas.
Supporting Essential Workers on the Front Line
To express our gratitude to and support for essential workers, we are making donations of Pigeon products to them around the world. In China, we are donating antibacterial hand gel to doctors and nurses, as well as baby goods for their own families. In Japan, we donated hand lotion, to help workers prevent their skin from becoming rough and painful due to repeated sterilization. In Spain, we donated lanolin cream to help care for irritated skin due to day-long mask usage. And across Europe and the US, we regularly post on social media to convey our gratitude.
Distributing Free Replacement Sheets for Masks to Elder Care Facilities and Nursery Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic is driving increased demand around keywords like health, hygiene, cleanness, nutrition, and immunity. At Pigeon Manufacturing Hyogo, our manufacturing facility in Japan, we used our expertise in manufacturing breast milk pads to develop and produce “mask replacement sheets” in just one month. These sheets protect masks from getting soiled and also have a filtering effect. We distributed around 60,000 of them to elder care facilities and nursery schools free of charge. Moving forward, we will continue to plan and develop new products to address a range of emergencies and natural disasters, not only COVID-19.
We look forward to continuing our work, every day, to help parents and their children and “make the world more baby-friendly.”