Naturally, mothers positive with COVID-19 should be worried about breastfeeding their babies.
Can you breastfeed your baby if you’re COVID-19 positive?
Yes, being a Covid-19 positive, you can breastfeed your baby because the COVID-19 virus isn’t prevalent in breastmilk, reports World Health Organization (WHO). Also, the cases are rare in which the fetus became COVID-19 positive inside the mothers’ womb. However, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) report in August 2021, a newborn isn’t beyond the risk of getting affected by COVID-19 during delivery. Although it’s beneficial to keep the mother and the baby in the same room after birth, doctors may separate them upon testing covid and considering both their health conditions.
Motherhood is a heavenly blessing for women. The engagement between a mother and her child gets stronger while she nurses the baby. Naturally, the nursing mothers are panicking in the pandemic with so many questions in their minds.
So, before assuming the worst, let’s dive into some facts first.
A Mother Can Breastfeed Her Baby If She Is COVID-19 Positive
Dear mothers out there, don’t worry that you will turn your baby COVID-19 positive through breastfeeding. But you must avoid direct physical contact with your baby. Do not try to kiss you’re your baby or do not show any kind of affection through physical contact.
Is It Okay to Skip Breastfeeding If A Mother Is COVID-19 Positive?
In the initial first six months, breastfeeding is the only food for your infant. If you’re COVID-19 positive and your baby is less than six months old, don’t skip breastfeeding.
It’s safe to feed your infant container milk and baby food after six months. So, if your baby is six months plus and it seems too risky for your baby to breastfeed, you can substitute your breast milk with those foods until you overcome the situation.
COVID-19 syndromes like continuous runny nose or coughing are risky for your baby. Beware that the coughing or mucus droplets don’t reach your baby.
I’m saying it again, breastmilk won’t affect your baby, but your saliva, tear, or mucus can.
Is COVID-19 A Major Threat for The Mother and The Baby?
COVID-19 is an airborne, contagious virus. No one’s an expert on this disease yet, but it has turned a significant portion of the human race perilous.
Doctors and scientists have been studying this new virus for more than a year now. Though lethal, there’s no evidence as of yet to suggest an increased rate of miscarriage. Neither are babies falling victim to their breastfeeding mothers who’re corona positive.
JAMA Pediatrics reported on April 2021 that only 12.9% of newborns were born with covid-19 positive to the infected mothers.
A few reports show that some infants got infected by the new coronavirus a few hours or days after birth. However, it’s not evident that any maternal disease was responsible for the infections in those neonates.
What Do Researchers Say about Breastfeeding?
The researchers haven’t traced coronavirus in samples of breast milk, rather breastfeeding reduces the chances of morbidity in both the mother and the infant, reports Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Breastfeeding is the cornerstone of an infant’s survival, nutrition, and neural development. It also reciprocates with maternal health.
A mother with COVID-19 should receive proper support for breastfeeding safely. She should share a room with her baby while breastfeeding. She must sanitize her body, cover her face and hands while nursing her baby.
Remember, a baby is safe from her mother’s breastmilk, not from her transferrable droplets.
Cautions COVID-19 Positive Mothers should Follow while Breastfeeding
- Practice respiratory hygiene while breastfeeding. If you experience shortness of breath, wear a medical mask when near your child, or put on a face-covering.
- Sanitize your hands or wash them with antiseptic soap while approaching your child for breastfeeding and afterward.
- Maintain a routine to clean and sanitize the places you regularly touch.
- Avoid cuddling your baby before, during, or after breastfeeding.
Alternatives the COVID-19 Positive Mothers Can Follow when They’re Sick
If a COVID-19 positive mother is too unwell to breastfeed, she can provide her baby with breastmilk in other ways, including:
- Try to express milk so you can suffice the breastmilk to the infant.
- Try re-lactation (restarting breastfeeding after an interval),
- Arrange wet-nursing (a substitute woman breastfeeding or nursing your baby), or,
- Use human-donor milk.
The most appropriate approach will depend on cultural context, personal acceptance, and service availability.
What Should Mothers Do?
If you’re corona positive, don’t stop breastfeeding. Resume feeding your baby if you’ve stopped.
Mothers should seek counseling about the benefits of breastfeeding. They must learn how breastmilk substantially outweighs the potential risks of any viral transmission.
Mother and infant should stay close besides practicing rooming-in throughout the day and night and skin-to-skin contact. Include post-birth kangaroo mother care, and establish breastfeeding, whether both mother and infant are suspected or confirmed having COVID-19.
Doctor David Mc Kenna tells Premier Health that if a mom has COVID-19, she may feed her infant the express or pump milk in a bottle. He adds that there’s no indication that a baby can catch the virus by drinking breastmilk from her infected mom.
However, close contact with a COVID-19 positive caregiver while feeding a baby would increase the virus’s risk.
Reports on Breastfeeding During COVID-19
According to WHO (World Health Organization) report in June 2020, 46 mother-infant duos went through a test for breastmilk samples to determine if they had COVID-19. What came out was each mother, and 13 infants were COVID-19 positive. Amazingly, only 3 of the breastmilk samples tested corona positive with viral particles.
Only 1 baby among those 3 corona positive samples with RNA particles (not a live virus) tested corona positive.
The remaining 2 infants tested negative for COVID-19; one was breastfed, and the other fed on expressed breastmilk upon confirmation of the undetected viral RNA particles.
The source of viral transmission in that one baby was still uncertain, i.e., unclear whether it came through the breastfeeding mother’s droplets or the breastmilk itself.
Breastfeeding Week 2020
With the COVID-19 pandemic’s acceleration worldwide, the WHO (World Health Organization) has taken initiatives to support breastfeeding across the countries in South-East Asia.
Hence, UNICEF and WHO had promoted the ‘breastfeeding week 2020‘ theme, “Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet,” calling all governments to support this agenda for enlisting more nursing mothers into skilled breastfeeding counseling.
UNICEF and WHO have continued the same agenda by promoting the ‘breastfeeding week 2021‘ under the theme “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility” to meet the prior commitments made at the start of the year.
WHO has been encouraging breastfeeding in those countries with comprehensive guidance.
The breastfeeding agenda has gained success across the countries in South-East Asia during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Khetrapal Singh added, ‘Countries should invest in making skilled breastfeeding counseling available through training of healthcare workers, with counseling made available as part of routine health service delivery and also through partnerships with civil society.’
Are Extra Precautions Necessary for a COVID-19 Positive Nursing Mother?
Be wary while breastfeeding your child if you are a COVID-positive patient. Though the number of COVID-19 positive infants is very few, that doesn’t mean that they are entirely risk-free.
Babies directly in contact with COVID-positive patients are always at high risk.
Whenever the baby is dependent on you, it is your responsibility to re-assure his/her safety. If you think you cannot take proper precautions, you must stop breastfeeding for a while to keep your baby safe.
Breastmilk Increases Immunity and Growth in Infants
Breastmilk protects against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for infants.
Breastfeeding has a link to higher IQ scores in later childhood, according to some studies. What’s more, the physical closeness, skin-to-skin touching, and eye contact help bond between you and the baby.
Breastfed infants grow healthier and better than regular ones.
Consult your healthcare providers to decide when to start and how long to continue breastfeeding.
Disruption in breastfeeding can cause a drop in milk supply, the infant’s refusal to take the breast, and a decrease in breastmilk’s protective factors.
Mothers who catch coronavirus shortly before giving birth and begin breastfeeding will produce immune factors (antibodies) in their milk. The same goes for those who get infected while breastfeeding. It will enhance the baby’s immune responses.
Hence, continuing to breastfeed is the best way to fight the virus and protect your baby.
Every Mother Is Perfect!
Mothers are the biggest blessings we have; all mothers protect their infants with their life.
No matter the circumstance, they keep their child’s life ahead of them without giving a second thought.
Mothers’ have always been fighting, whether it be against the world or COVID-19, to provide the best to their blood.
The data is deficient in concluding whether the virus can or cannot be transmitted through breastmilk. But we can say, breastmilk won’t affect your baby.
You should continue breastfeeding with proper precautions.
Breastfeeding will provide some antibodies to your infant to shield its health against infection.
Breastfeeding will boost up your infant’s immune system, which is essential to fight COVID-19.
To look after yourself and your baby is vital. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss any concerns if you face any further complications.
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