- World marks breastfeeding week from August 1 to 7
- Theme of breastfeeding week is support breastfeeding for healthier planet
- If the mother tested COVID+ they should continue to breastfeed: Experts
New Delhi: The current coronavirus pandemic has raised many questions when it comes to its spread as the World continues to learn about the disease and the novel coronavirus. Across the globe, concerns are growing about its effects on various sections and vulnerable groups, like the safety of breastfeeding for both mother and their babies. On Tuesday (August 4), the World Health Organization (WHO), once again said that the risk of COVID-19 infection from breastfeeding is negligible and asks mothers to continue to breastfeed their babies even if they are COVID-19 positive. The appeal comes during the World Breastfeeding Week, which is being celebrated across from August 1 to 7.
Highlighting the importance of breastfeeding even during times OF COVID, Laurence M Grummer-Strawn, WHO Unit Head, Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems said,
WHO is very clear in its recommendations and we do recommend all mothers who are either suspected of or are confirmed with COVID-19, to continue breastfeeding their child. And the reason, we are saying that it is safe to breastfeed during this crisis is that we have evaluated the risks. According to our studies, the risk of transmission of the infection during breastfeeding is really low. Moreover, if mothers are not breastfeeding their babies thinking they are protecting them from the pandemic, then they are wrong. They might be putting the babies to some or other risks by not breastfeeding them. Globally, we have seen that not using mother’s milk is linked to 820,000 child deaths a year. Moreover, in the past, even if babies have gotten infected from the virus from some or the other way, it is noticed that the virus is very mild. So, in simple terms, if the mother is not breastfeeding their child during the coronavirus times, then they are protecting something very mild and losing something very important or essential.
Listing the steps and precautions mothers should take if they are COVID-19 positive while practising breastfeeding, Mr Strawn added,
The steps are simple, whatever one will do to stop the transmission of the virus further such as wearing a mask when coming in contact with some other person in the room, frequently washing hands with soap or alcohol-based sanitizer, cleaning floors regularly and washing clothes on a frequent basis. It is basically about maintaining good personal hygiene, and even while practising breastfeeding, mothers should take all these precautions. Make sure you have your mask on, before breastfeeding, you should sanitise or wash your hands properly, if possible, wear a fresh pair of clothes while breastfeeding.
After World Health Organisations recommendations, the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry has also instructed all field functionaries and healthcare providers to reassure mothers to initiate and continue to breastfeed their infants as per guidelines even if they have tested positive for COVID-19. Reassuring mothers, the WCD ministry said the coronavirus has not been found in amniotic fluid or breast milk which means that the virus is not being transmitted during pregnancy or through breast milk.
Sharing the guidelines on social media, the ministry said,
Field functionaries/healthcare providers should reassure and support all mothers to initiate and continue to breastfeed their infants as per the guidelines of WHO and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare – even if they are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.
Our Field functionaries/Health care providers re-assure and provide support to all mothers to initiate and continue to breastfeed their infants – even if they are suspected or confirmed to have #COVID19.#BreastfeedBestFeed #FoodandNutritionBoard pic.twitter.com/cIzmaWoKZg
— Ministry of WCD (@MinistryWCD) August 5, 2020
Highlighting the precautions, the new mothers should take while breastfeeding, the ministry said,
Wash your hands thoroughly with soap or sanitizer before and after contact with your child. In case of complementary feeding, feed the infant or young child with a cup and wash hands with soap and water before handling cups, bottles, teats etc and limit the number of caregivers feeding the infant.
Supporting the guidelines for breastfeeding in the times of coronavirus by WHO, Dr. Rakesh Sahay, Endocrinologist and Diabetologist, and Professor at Osmania Medical College in Hyderabad added,
Mothers should definitely continue to breastfeed their newborns, the breastmilk is not going to transmit the infection but the aerosol generated from the mother if she is sick can transmit the infection. Therefore, it is necessary for the mother to take the precautions like wearing a mask and maintaining good personal hygiene in order to prevent the child from infection.
Talking about the stigma and myths attached to COVID-19, Dr. Shacchhee Baweja, Lactation Consultant, Pediatric, BLK Super Speciality Hospital adds,
Irrespective of mother’s COVID status, the benefits of breastfeeding are innumerable, so mothers should and must breastfeed their newborns. Because of lack of awareness and stigma attached to the virus, we have seen many cases in our hospital, where COVID-19 mother gives birth to the child and family says we will take the child back home but please first make the mother healthy and let her stay in the hospital, the point here is to make such people and families aware. Mothers should not be separated from their newborn, in fact, it has been seen that when new mothers breastfeed their child, the breastmilk secrete antibodies, which is essential to fight the virus, so if the baby is getting mother’s feed, he/she will be healthy enough to not get infected with the virus. On the other hand, new mothers should take utmost precautions, while breastfeeding their child, wearing a mask and maintaining good hand hygiene, plays a very crucial role
A senior Nutrition Expert at Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), a not for profit public-private initiative working towards strengthening health in India, said,
Breastfeeding has numerous health benefits, it protects the child against diarrhoea, which is one of the top causes of mortality in low-income countries, protection against respiratory infections, against obesity – childhood obesity later on – as children get older, protection against leukaemia. So, if mothers are not breastfeeding their children now in the pandemic thinking they are protecting their child, it is wrong as they are risking their babies lives with all kinds of other diseases. Moreover, since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been many types of research and studies done on the link between breastfeeding and the virus and as of now, in the past seven months, no case has been reported which proves that breastfeeding can risk the life of a child.
About World Breastfeeding Week
To promote breastfeeding, the world celebrates breastfeeding week every year in the first week of August. It is celebrated to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies around the world, according to the World Health Organisation, for the first six months, children should only be breastfed.
World Breastfeeding Week commemorates the Innocenti Declaration signed in August 1990 by government policymakers, WHO, UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) and other organisations to protect, promote and support breastfeeding. The week dates back to 1979 when WHO started a battle against baby foods being promoted in the market, and brands interfering in breastfeeding in hospitals. Globally it was noticed that powdered milk formula had a negative impact on the health of children and something needed to be done. So, 1979, WHO called a meeting and it was decided that there should be a strong and effective marketing code. Later in 1981, the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes was adopted by the World Health Assembly and 118 out of 119 countries signed the resolution.
Every year, the day is celebrated with some theme, this year’s theme is ‘Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet’. In line with this theme, WHO and UNICEF are calling on governments to protect and promote women’s access to skilled breastfeeding counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swasth India campaign is an extension of the five-year-old Banega Swachh India initiative helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. It aims to spread awareness about critical health issues facing the country. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign highlights the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children to prevent maternal and child mortality, fight malnutrition, stunting, wasting, anaemia and disease prevention through vaccines. Importance of programmes like Public Distribution System (PDS), Mid-day Meal Scheme, POSHAN Abhiyan and the role of Aganwadis and ASHA workers are also covered. Only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and become a Swasth or healthy India. The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene.