- Covid positive mothers can continue to breastfeed their babies: Expert
- Breastmilk helps develop immunity in a baby: Dr Arun Gupta, BPNI
- Vaccines will help prevent severe diseases in lactating mothers: Expert
New Delhi: According to experts, breastmilk is important for the health of the baby as it contains vital elements like nutrients that help in the baby’s growth and antibodies that strengthen its immune system. However, as the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic which has impacted most of the global population including children, should the new mothers who have contracted the highly contagious coronavirus continue to breastfeed their babies? NDTV spoke with Dr Arun Gupta, Pediatrician and Central Coordinator of Breastfeeding Promotion Network Of India (BPNI) during the ongoing World Breastfeeding Week 2021 to learn about how a Covid positive lactating mother can continue to breastfeed their babies safely.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) suggests that mother and infant should be enabled to remain together and to practice skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care, especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
Here are 10 things a Covid positive breastfeeding mother should keep in mind in order to keep her baby healthy, according to Dr Gupta:
- A woman who has tested positive for Covid or is suspected to carry the virus should not stop feeding her baby. The mother should continue to breastfeed her baby while following safety protocols. It is safe to breastfeed A child if the mother is Covid positive or has symptoms.
- Studies done by the WHO and other experts from across the world find that there is no evidence of coronavirus being transmitted via breastmilk. WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed and they should be counselled that the benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.
- A Covid-hit new mother must wear masks when she is near the baby or less than six feet from the baby and must wash her chest if she has just coughed on it before breastfeeding. She must wash her hands before touching the baby and also sanitize the surrounding areas frequently.
- Breastmilk may even help prevent incidences of infections such as respiratory tract infections among children and added that breastmilk is loaded with nutrition and antibodies which protect the baby and boosts its immunity.
- Breastfeeding helps a mother stay calm as the process releases a hormone called Oxytocin which 0evokes the feeling of calmness, reduces anxiety and helps bonding with the baby and enhance milk production.
- In case a mother is severely ill due to Covid because of which she is unable to hold her baby and breastfeed directly, she can express milk to safely provide breastmilk to the baby. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) recommends providing a dedicated breast pump to the Covid positive mother in order to contain transmission. It further said that each time after milk extraction, every part of the breast pump should be sanitized. The Union Health Ministry recommends that the expressed breast milk should be fed to the newborn by a healthy caregiver.
- If the mother is too weak to express milk, then alternatives to her breastmilk can be arranged which include human milk from other lactating mothers in the family or from a breastmilk donor.
- In case of the absence of human milk, one may use other kinds of feeds but in that case, milk must be prepared in hygienic conditions using sterilised containers and bottles. The milk should be used after a couple of hours after being prepared. The mother can also explore the possibility of relactation or restarting breastfeeding after a gap, once she feels better.
- The family of a Covid positive breastfeeding mother can play an important role by supporting her in recovering from the diseases and in taking care of her baby. It is important to support her emotionally as well during this tough period.
- It is strongly recommended for lactating women to get vaccinated to help reduce the possibility of severe diseases among breastfeeding mothers to a large extent and may also help the baby get some protection via antibodies that pass through the breastmilk.
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.