Breastfeeding in COVID Times

All national and International bodies unanimously recommend that irrespective of a person’s COVID Status

  1.  All mothers and babies should be put in immediate skin to skin contact after birth.
  2.  Breastfeeding should be initiated at the earliest.
  3.  Exclusive breastfeeding should be practiced for 1st 6 months of baby’s life (and continued for a minimum of 2 years).

In addition, mum who is COVID positive should wear a mask, and maintain proper hand hygiene.

 The rationale behind these recommendations is that ….

  1. The data till now clearly shows that coronavirus does not get transmitted via breastmilk.
  2. When a lady who is breastfeeding gets infected by coronavirus, her body starts producing disease fighting chemicals (antibodies) which are also secreted in breastmilk, thus providing baby with readymade medicine against coronavirus. 
  3. Breastmilk is the normal food of a human baby and helps in building up a baby’s immunity. Breastfeeding is health for life.

We know, Immune status of a person is a big factor in his /her fight with Coronavirus infection….so the logical conclusion here is to breastfeed.

Some frequently asked questions in this context….

Q1 I am corona positive and I just delivered a baby, what should I do…

– Keep your baby close to you, breastfeed on demand and wear a well fitted mask, maintain proper hand hygiene.

Q2 I am corona positive can someone else give my Breastmilk to my baby if I pump it out and give it to them?

Yes, but first consider 2 things… 

How can you be sure that the other person is negative, maybe he / she is asymptomatic but still corona positive!! 

Breastfeeding is a lot more than just food. It is development of a bond, it is warmth, its security, its love and it’s for proper development of your baby’s face, jaws and teeth.

So, if you are able to directly breastfeed, do that. If you are hospitalized and/or are not able to directly breastfeed, then yes please try and express milk regularly and send Expressed Breast milk for your baby.

Q3 What happens if a COVID positive mother is sick and cannot feed baby directly.

She should be helped with expressing out her milk regularly and send it to the baby. As soon as she is able to, direct breastfeeding should be initiated.

Q4 I am facing challenges breastfeeding….how can I exclusively breastfeed?

Reach out to any experienced Lactation support person  in your area. A trained and skilled Lactation support person should be able to help you through this either via an in person consult or via a video consult. 

If you are COVID positive or  quarantined, you can do a video consult.

Q5 I was COVID Positive when I delivered and I did not feed my baby, now my baby is a few weeks old, and I feel my milk has dried up, can I get my milk supply back? Will it help my baby if I breastfeed my baby.

Yes, and Yes!

Even if you did not feed initially, with a proper plan, patience and effort, you can build up your milk supply and each drop of breastmilk counts so any amount of breastmilk is beneficial.

Look up for an experienced Lactation Support Person who can help you with this.

Q6 I am a breastfeeding mother and today I discovered I am COVID positive, should I continue breastfeeding?

Absolutely yes. When you breastfeed, you pass on Antibodies (against COVID) to your baby. There is a high probability that your child has already contracted the virus before you got tested, so getting antibodies via breastmilk will help protect the baby

Q7 What are the recommendations for those who are pregnant / yet to deliver?

  • Attend an “Online Pregnancy Breastfeeding class”, run by someone experienced.
  • Make sure that you stay at home / stay safe
  • Talk to your doctor in advance about immediate skin to skin contact and earliest initiation of breastfeeding, whatever your COVID status might be.
  • Read recommendations by WHO /Association of Lactation Professionals India /BPNI.
  • Read in person accounts of people who were COVID positive and who breastfed.

Once your baby comes breastfeed. Seek breastfeeding help at the earliest if you are facing challenges. Majority of experienced LCs are equally beneficial via virtual consults too.

VIDEO MADE ESPECIALLY FOR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS

Published by Dr Shacchee Baweja IBCLC

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) BPNI tranied Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) Specialist

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