Topic: Expert tips to breastfeed safely during the pandemic
For newborns, the most important source of nutrition is breast milk, which helps to protect them against diseases. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recommended that mothers continue breastfeeding their babies during COVID-19 infection and after the vaccination. In fact, several studies have shown that breastfeeding may help build passive immunity as it contains antibodies that target the virus.
This Breastfeeding Awareness Month, we speak with Dr. Vidya Kaushal Jadhav, Paediatrician & International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), Mumbai on the importance of breastfeeding during the pandemic and how new mothers can protect themselves and their babies while feeding.
Considering the pandemic and the health implications brought by it, how important is breastfeeding for new borns, currently?
Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact and early, exclusive breastfeeding helps babies to thrive and provides lifelong health benefits.
Breastmilk provides antibodies that give babies a healthy start in life and protect them against many infections. Breastfeeding significantly reduces the risk of illnesses in newborns and young infants, provides life-long health benefits for children, and improves the health of mothers as well.
Thus, breastfeeding forms an important pillar for protecting newborns from the ongoing pandemic. Further, there is overwhelming evidence in support of breastfeeding even in the current pandemic situation, as the transmission of COVID-19 virus through breastfeeding or by giving breast milk has not been detected.
Many mothers who have recovered from COVID-19 or are COVID-19 positive worry about breastfeeding their babies for fear of passing on the infection. Is this worry valid and what can be done to encourage breastfeeding?
To date, active COVID-19 virus has not been detected in the breastmilk of any mother with COVID-19, so it is unlikely that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk. While researchers are continuing to test breast milk from mothers with confirmed and suspected COVID-19, the numerous benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of illness associated with the virus.
Hence, mothers who are COVID-19 positive should be encouraged and supported to continue breastfeeding following universal hygiene precautions. For mothers who have recovered from COVID-19, it is more important and beneficial to breastfeed as they can transfer the protective antibodies formed against the COVID-19 virus, to their breastfeeding baby and further enhance the immunity of the baby against the infection.
Topic Discussed: Expert tips to breastfeed safely during the pandemic