Breastfeeding during the Covid-19 pandemic? Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai breaks down the Dos and Don'ts for new and concerned mothers
16 August 2020| Last updated on 25 August 2020
Expert tips on keeping your newborn healthy and safe while breastfeeding
Mediclinic City Hospital, the first baby-friendly designated private hospital in Dubai, celebrated World Breastfeeding week earlier this month, clearing out the misconception on breastfeeding and COVID-19.
The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) is a global program introduced by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to improve the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies through increasing breastfeeding rates.
Having said that, it is also important to note that under the Baby Friendly initiative, Mediclinic City Hospital supports all the families regardless of their choice of feeding method.
This year, World Breastfeeding Week was celebrated with the theme of "Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet”. The fact is that pollution and climate change caused by human activities are the challenges facing our world. Interestingly, the COVID-19 pandemic reduced pollutions and gave us a lesson that we are all affected and a social response is required.
Breastfeeding is with no doubt the best source of nutrition for babies and protects them against illness. There are great numbers of live factors in human milk that helps to destroy harmful pathogens and boost the baby’s immune system.
However, during the outbreak of COVID-19, concerns have been raised whether mothers with COVID-19 can pass coronavirus to their baby through breastfeeding and what they can do to protect themselves and their babies.
Studies on COVID-19 transmission still continue. The virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-COV-2) spreads mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes like other respiratory pathogens spread. To date, there is no conclusive evidence that the COVID-19 infection can be passed through breast milk.
Therefore, considering the protection that breastfeeding offers the baby and the minimal role it plays in the transmission of respiratory viruses, WHO and UNICEF and many other international experts are recommending that “mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 disease should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding while applying necessary hygiene precautions.”
When breastfeeding mothers become sick with a virus, they develop antibodies to fight the illness. The antibodies are then transferred to the baby through breast milk, helping to protect the baby from illnesses to which the mother has been exposed.
It is also recommended that mother and baby stay in the same room with close contact and practice skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) with appropriate precautions. Keeping babies close and responding to their needs for food, love and comfort are essentials for babies.
Breastfeeding mothers with symptoms of or confirmed COVID-19 need to take the following precautions to avoid spreading the virus to the baby:
- Wash hands before and after contact with baby
- Wear a cloth face mask while breastfeeding or holding baby
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces touched
- Have your own dedicated breast pump
- Wash your hands before touching breast pump or bottle parts and clean all parts before and after each use
- If mother is feeling unwell, she can express her milk with proper hand hygiene and wearing a mask. Someone else can feed expressed breast milk to the baby
- If mother is too unwell to breastfeed or express her milk, the mother can seek help and advice from a lactation specialist and together they can work on efforts to re-lactate so the mother can continue breastfeeding after she recovers
Remember, mothers can successfully start and maintain breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic with the recommended precautions.
The COVID-19 pandemic gave us a lesson that breastfeeding is not only a key preventative health step for baby and mother, it is readily available nutrition, clean at the right temperature, with minimum required interaction with the environment in normal and emergency situations.
For more details on the baby friendly hospital, please click here.
Compiled by Zahra Mokhber, Lactation Consultant at Mediclinic City Hospital