- Experts say mothers need to maintain proper hygiene while breastfeeding
- Breastfeeding is a lot more than just providing food to the baby: Experts
- Benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of COVID-19 infection: WHO
New Delhi: According to experts, breastmilk is the most essential and irreplaceable nutrition for a child’s development. However, a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says that around 60 per cent of infants miss out on exclusive breastfeeding in the initial months. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to grow, doctors worry that lack of awareness and the uncertainties around the pandemic can create panic among new mothers which may further discourage them from breastfeeding their babies. This year the World Breastfeeding Week is being celebrated from August 1 to 7, the theme for the current year is ‘Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet’. Speaking to NDTV Dr. Veena Aggarwal, Gynaecologist, MD, Medical Advisor Medtalks.in and Dr. Shacchee Baweja, lactation specialist, BLK Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi explain the ways to support the lactating mothers keep babies safe while breastfeeding during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Tip 1: Continue To Breastfeed Eeven If You Fall Sick
Dr Baweja asserts that irrespective of the mother’s COVID-19 status, breastfeeding should be initiated at the earliest and exclusive breastfeeding should be practised for the first six months of the baby’s life. She says that till now, the available data has clearly shown that coronavirus does not get transmitted via breastmilk. She further adds,
A mother who tests COVID-19 positive must continue breastfeeding because the antibodies produced by her immune system will also be secreted in breastmilk providing the babies a readymade protection against the virus.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged the same as all other mothers to initiate or continue breastfeeding. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in his address to the media,
The many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children substantially outweigh the potential risks of COVID-19 infections.
Tip 2: Practise Good Hand Hygiene
Emphasising on the importance of washing hands frequently, Dr Aggarwal said that mother should always go near babies with clean hand and must avoid touching their mouth or nose. She said,
After the delivery of a baby, breastfeeding is an important form of contact between a mother and a child. This is because breastfeeding not only provides food for the baby, it also plays and important role in the development of a bond and providing warmth, security and love to the baby. However, it is extremely important that proper hygiene is being practised at all time.
In order to keep hands germs free, WHO recommends washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or rubbing an alcohol-based sanitiser.
Tip 3: Disinfect Baby’s Gears And Other Touched Surfaces Regularly
Along with washing hands regularly, the experts emphasise on wiping or disinfecting the frequently touched surfaces like baby’s bottles, utensils, toys, clothes and bedding, in order to reduce the risk of them catching the virus.
Tip 4: Follow Social Distancing Guidelines Strictly
According to both the experts, it is crucial to follow government advisories on social distancing. Dr. Aggarwal said,
Birth of a baby is a special occasion for families and friends. They all are always excited to meet the newborn. But they must be asked to maintain social distancing. It is better to do a video call with them instead of having them to visit the baby.
She further said that in order to ensure less movement in the outside world, the parents must ensure to sufficient supplies like diapers, food, medicines, and other necessary items for the baby for at least a few weeks.
Dr. Baweja highlighted that currently, most of the cases of COVID-19 in the country are asymptomatic which means that the infected person may not show any symptoms. Thus, having people in contact with the baby may put it at the risk of contracting the infection as the immunity of newborns is low, she said.
Tip 5: Wear A Mask
Dr. Agarwal suggests that as a precautionary measure, mothers should wear a mask as a routine while feeding the baby to ensure that the baby is protected. She said,
While it is necessary for mothers who are sick or infected with COVID-19 to wear the mask all the time, it is recommended that those who are not infected must also wear a mask while breastfeeding to ensure safety of the 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 (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.