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Childcare During Pandemic: Breastfeeding Or Sourcing Breast Milk From Milk Banks Is Safe With Some Precautions, Say Experts

Ketan Bharadva, president of Human Milk Banking Association (India) says for infants who cannot get mother’s milk for whatever reason, the next best option is pasteurised donor human milk from a scientifically operated standard milk bank

COVID-19: Breastfeeding Or Sourcing Breast Milk From Milk Banks Is Safe With Standard Precautions, Say Experts
Highlights
  • COVID is killed by pasteurising milk : Expert
  • Sourcing milk from milk banks is safe during COVID: Expert
  • Benefits of breastfeeding outweigh risks of infections by formula feeding

New Delhi: Breastfeeding or sourcing breast milk from milk banks with standard precautions has been found to be safe in COVID times, experts have said. A human milk bank or breast milk bank is a service which collects, screens, processes, and dispenses by prescription human milk donated by nursing mothers who are not biologically related to the recipient infant.

Ketan Bharadva, president of Human Milk Banking Association (India) and head of the Infant and Young Child Feeding Chapter of Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said for infants who cannot get mother’s milk for whatever reason, the next best option is pasteurised donor human milk from a scientifically operated standard milk bank. He further said that there is convincing evidence in preprint scientific journals that COVID virus is killed by pasteurising milk by holder pasteurisation method.

Sourcing milk from milk banks is safe during COVID. If mother’s milk is not available for whatever reason, the next best option for such infants is pasteurised donor human milk from a scientifically operated standard milk bank, Mr Bharadva told PTI.

Also Read: Precautions To Take In Times Of COVID-19 Pandemic To Safeguard Breastfeeding Babies

Holder pasteurisation is the process of removing potentially harmful germs from milk by heating it to 62.5 degrees Celsius for half an hour, and then cooling it back down to room temperature. Noting that the pasteurised donor milk is a scarce product as compared to its demand, he said it is given to preterm babies who are unable to get enough mother’s own milk, among others.

Babies whose mothers have lactation failure or those with surgical gastrointestinal issues like short gut syndrome, sepsis, and post-surgical gut healing in omphalocele, gastroschisis, bowel obstruction and intestinal fistulas are also given this milk, he added.

Shailesh Jagtap, senior technical and programme advisor at Alive and Thrive India, a global nutrition initiative that aims to ensure healthy growth of mothers and children, said till date there is no evidence of vertical transmission of the active virus from COVID positive mothers to their unborn or newborn and also through breastmilk.

SARS-CoV-2 virus which is causing the current pandemic is transmitted as airborne by coming in close contact with COVID-19 positive patients. COVID infected mother can provide skin to skin contact and breastfeed immediately after delivery and the child can remain with mother in the same room by practising hand hygiene and respiratory hygiene using surgical masks, unless medically required for the newborn to be separated, he said.

Also Read: Breastfeeding Week Special: Mothers Should Continue To Breastfeed Even If They Are COVID-19 Positive, Experts Say It Is ‘Safe’

He said that in case a woman is not able to breastfeed her child due to her illness she can use breast pumps for collecting milk which can be fed by COVID negative relatives taking all precautionary measures using clean vessels.

The benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risk of the infection to the baby due to formula feeding or any other animal milk, he said.

Jaha Khan, a lactation consultant, said breastfeeding is a very important part of a child’s life and it supplies the immunity and nutrition that the child needs in the initial period.

In view of COVID, many mothers are seen to be apprehensive of breastfeeding their child but I assure them that even with necessary precautions COVID-19 positive mothers can feed their child, she said.

Ms Khan said sourcing milk from the bank is also safe upon following the right procedure. The World Health Organization (WHO) had on Tuesday said that the risk of COVID-19 infection from breastfeeding is negligible and has never been documented, calling for greater support for the practice.

Also Read: Opinion: Breastfeeding A Must To Fortify The ‘First Thousand Days’ Of Your Baby

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 (WaterSanitation 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 pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene

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