The coronavirus pandemic, together with its strict distancing rules, continues to keep many of us on edge and this is even worse for parents and breastfeeding mothers.
In the midst of the virus, questions have been raised about the best way to protect babies, particularly those still breastfeeding. Breastmilk offers the best protection and nourishment for your child as it contains vital antibodies and other nutrients that can help the baby’s immune system to fight infections.
But is breast milk from mothers who are sick with COVID-19 safe, and how will the pandemic affect the rate at which they breastfeed while making sure their babies are well-nourished?
At the moment, the good news is there is no evidence of the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in breast milk, meaning it’s safe for mothers to breastfeed, even though they must take extra precautions.
“A mother can breastfeed, even if she develops symptoms of coronavirus infection such as fever or a cough,” said Harriet Torlesse, a nutrition expert with UNICEF.
“The benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risks of infection. At the same time, it is really important that the mother follows all the recommended practices to prevent her from spreading the infection to her baby or anyone else in the household. That includes washing her hand with soap for at least twenty seconds, wearing a facemask and cleaning any surfaces that she touches,” she said.
“If the mother does not have a facemask, she should still continue to breastfeed because the benefits are greater than the risk of infection.”
What if the mother is severely sick and cannot breastfeed?
“If a mother feels too unwell to breastfeed, wherever possible, she can express milk,” said Torlesse.
“Then the mother or someone else can feed the milk to the baby with a clean cup and spoon. If that is not possible, another breastfeeding woman can breastfeed her baby, if this is culturally appropriate. If neither of these options are possible, the best course of action is to seek advice and support from a health worker.”
The following video from UNICEF has more: