World Health Organisation states, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. However, nearly two out of three infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended six months—a rate that has not improved in TWO decades. It also says that if breastfeeding were scaled up to near universal levels, about 8,20,000 child lives would be saved every year.
World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) is the global campaign started in 1992, celebrated every August 1st to 7th. WBW has addressed annual themes including women and work, community support, maternity leave, economy and now within the COVID-19 pandemic; the safety of vaccination while breastfeeding.
Significantly in 2016, WBW became aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by all UN member states.
Breastfeeding in the context of COVID-19
Is breastfeeding recommended during the coronavirus outbreak?
YES. Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the immune system by directly transferring antibodies from the mother. As with all confirmed or suspected COVID-19 cases, mothers with any symptoms who are breastfeeding or practicing skin-to-skin contact should take precautions.
Can breast milk transmit the COVID-19 virus?
NO. The transmission of the COVID-19 virus through breastmilk and breastfeeding has not been detected. While breastfeeding, a mother should still implement appropriate hygiene measures, including wearing a medical mask if available and strict hand sanitisation, to reduce the possibility of droplets with COVID-19 being spread to her infant.
Is there any risk if I breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?
The consequences of not breastfeeding and separation between mother and child can be significant. At present, data are not sufficient to conclude vertical transmission of COVID-19 through breastfeeding.
Following delivery, should a baby still be immediately placed skin-to-skin and breastfed if the mother is confirmed/suspected to have COVID-19?
YES. Immediate and continued skin-to-skin care, including kangaroo mother care, improves thermal regulation of newborns and several other physiological outcomes, and is associated with reduced neonatal mortality. The numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with COVID-19
Is it necessary for a mother with confirmed/suspected COVID-19 to sanitise exposed areas before she breastfeeds directly or before expressing milk?
If a mother is confirmed/suspected to have COVID-19, has just coughed over her exposed breast or chest, then she should gently wash the breast with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds prior to feeding. It is not necessary to wash the breast before every breastfeed or prior to expressing milk.
Can I breastfeed my child if I am severely ill with coronavirus disease?
If you are severely ill with COVID-19 or suffer from other complications that prevent you from caring for your infant or continuing direct breastfeeding, express milk to safely provide breastmilk to your infant.