Breastfeeding amid COVID-19: Guidelines to protect your baby during coronavirus pandemic
Some good news recently flowed in for new mommies or mothers-to-be amid the COVID-19 pandemic gloom and it was the green signal to breastfeed their newborns as studies, though limited, showed that researchers have not found SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk yet. In a report by the United Nations last month, Dr Laurence Grummer-Strawn, head of the World Health Organization’s Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit had stated, “WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolutely breastfeeding should continue. We have never documented, anywhere around the world, any [COVID-19] transmission through breastmilk.”
The UN report conducted on “many” women also added that although a few samples had contained the virus, “when they followed up to see whether the virus was actually viable and could be infective, they could not find any actual infective virus”. August wraps up National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and while scientists are still researching on the ways to tame the coronavirus, experts suggest it is safe to breastfeed your baby but with some special precautions amid COVID-19.
Two case studies were also conducted on women in China who became ill with COVID-19, late in their last trimester but delivered healthy babies who didn’t have a coronavirus infection. Though the ladies avoided skin contact with their newborns and isolated themselves until they recovered, more medical research is ongoing regarding the same.
Since the virus has been found to move in the nose and can pass onto another person before the host body gets symptoms, mothers have to be extra cautious that the droplets from their mouth and nose do pass to the babies by touching the little one if they come in contact. Whether you have been exposed to the virus or not, it is important to follow certain guidelines if you are breastfeeding your babies:
While washing hands carefully is the new norm reinforced in the COVID-19 era, new moms should especially take care to do so before and after touching their babies or picking up the baby’s bottles and other items belonging to their little ones.
2.Dos and don't of face mask
Even inside the house when the mothers are near their babies, they should cover themselves with a mask (and even gloves if necessary) and sanitise frequently. This is to be followed when breastfeeding, holding, changing or talking to your baby. Remember, this is to prevent a coronavirus infection even if it startles or distracts the little one at first. Also, do NOT take off your mask near your baby.
Since the virus is known to survive on some surfaces for up to 48 to 72 hours, experts recommend cleaning and disinfecting everything within the babies’ vicinity with an alcohol-based cleaner. These surfaces include countertops, bottles, changing tables, even your baby’s clothing and also clean surfaces that haven’t been touched but might have air droplets on them.
4.Pump your breast milk
In case you feel you have been exposed to COVID-19 or are experiencing its symptoms, get a test done and meanwhile pump your breast milk and ask your partner or a family member to feed it to the baby temporarily. Pumped milk can be stored for up to three days in the fridge and for up to six months in the freezer.
Wash your hands and clean the area of your skin that the breast pump will touch.. Ensure the bottle and the pump are sterilised by placing it in boiling water after each feed but make sure that the water doesn’t harm the plastic or the material of the bottle and pump.
Have your own dedicated pump, wash your hands well before touching it and apart from following the correct cleaning direction of the pump after each use, disinfect the breast milk parts too with boiled water or soap and water carefully.
In case of sickness, do not breastfeed. Instead, keep baby formula and sterile baby bottles handy as they are okay to use when absolutely necessary. Ask someone who is well to feed it to your little one.
Though it is not yet known if breastfeeding can protect a baby from COVID-19, breast milk in general is highly nutritious for infants and protects them from infection. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, severe respiratory symptoms are less likely to develop in breastfed infants in general.