If a mother has covid-19, can she breastfeed the baby? Yes but with certain precautions. Find what lactation expert has to say.
We have spoken a lot about COVID-19 and what safety measures to take. However, with this fatal virus, one should always be more careful. It is getting worse every day, and no one knows when it will end. There is no benign case of COVID-19 until you have fully recovered. The virus is mutating so fast that it is getting hard to keep up with the symptoms and after-effects of COVID. But scientists are doing their best and various ongoing studies keep us up to speed. In this situation mothers with newborns should be alert and take every little precaution to safeguard their baby. Especially a newborn baby is tender and needs your undivided attention and care. Every nursing mother should read this article as Dr. Aarthi Priyadharshini, Consultant Physiotherapist & Lactation Expert, Motherhood Hospital, Chennai shares some necessary precautions to take if a mother is suspected to have or has the covid infection.
Can a mother breastfeed if she has suspected/confirmed COVID?
This question has been one of the most frequently asked questions by new mothers especially in the ongoing pandemic and the answer to it is- yes. According to what information we have, breastfeeding is safe during covid-19. There is no evidence supporting the fact that breast milk is vertically spreading the virus to the child. WHO has recommended encouraging mothers to breastfeed the child with adequate precautions, as the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of transmitting the virus. This is because the mothers might transmit antibodies against COVID to the babies through breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is also the main source of nourishment for the child. All kinds of carbohydrates, vitamins, fats, etc. are provided by breast milk. Breast milk provides the child with immunity against infections.
Precautions to be taken while breastfeeding if the mother has suspected/confirmed COVID:
The key aim while breastfeeding if infected with COVID is reducing the risk of transmission to the child. These are some hygiene measures that a mother can take to protect the baby from the virus:
- One must always wash their hand before breastfeeding or touching the newborn.
- Keep tissue papers or handkerchiefs in handy. The mother must always sneeze or cough into the tissue and dispose of the tissue immediately.
- Regularly disinfecting and sanitizing the baby’s surroundings and toys.
- Wear a mask. Never put a mask or any kind of face shield on the child, as it can suffocate the baby.
- Wash your hands with soap and water regularly. One can also use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- If the child is in NICU the mothers can still provide milk for the child by pumping the breastmilk.
- Gloves can also be used when the mother is touching the child.
If the mother has mild/controllable COVID:
- She should wear a mask while breastfeeding and whenever she is near the newborn.
- Practice proper hygiene and covid appropriate protocols
If the mother has severe COVID symptoms and it is not advisable for her to be near the infant, then she can:
- Use a sterilized pump for the breastmilk.
- You can also hire a caregiver to properly supervise the child. One must ensure that the caregiver is following the safety parameters and they must not interact with a lot of people outside the house, as that exposes the child to the virus.
After COVID, the mother might have difficulty in producing breastmilk as there was disruption of direct breastfeeding. The mother can use a breast pump to enhance milk supply.
It important that the baby receives medical attention if they seem unwell or if the parents have any concerns about its health. Someone must look after the mother and the baby. If suspected with COVID, the mother must take proper medication and supplements advised by the doctor. All safety precautions must be followed as India is going through an extremely rough time and every one of us needs to be safe to reduce the spread of COVID.
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