A doctor explains: Why breastfeeding must continue in the COVID-19 pandemic


As India braves the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to understand just how much health matters now more than ever. While it is a stressful time for everyone, it is extremely trying for a new mother, who is breastfeeding her child.

Emphasising on the importance of breastfeeding during such times, Dr Sreenath Manikanti, senior consultant neonatologist and HOD, Fortis La Femme Hospital, Richmond Road, Bangalore, says that new mothers “can successfully start breastfeeding during COVID-19 pandemic with some recommended precautions”.

“Breastfeeding protects newborns from getting sick and also helps them throughout their infancy and childhood. It is especially effective against infectious diseases, because it strengthens the immunity by directly transferring antibodies from the mother,” says the doctor.

Some FAQs answered:

Is it safe to breastfeed during the pandemic?

Absolutely. Breast milk provides antibodies that give babies a healthy boost and protect them against many infections. Antibodies and bioactive factors in breast milk may fight against COVID-19 infection, if a baby is exposed.

If your baby is six months old or younger, they should be breastfed exclusively. Once your infant is over six months, continue breastfeeding with safe and healthy complementary foods.

Can I pass COVID-19 to my baby by breastfeeding?

Since the beginning of the COVID 19 pandemic, researchers in various countries have tested breast milk from mothers diagnosed with COVID-19 and till date, the transmission of active COVID-19 (the virus that can cause the infection) through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been established.

breastfeeding, why breastfeeding is important, breastfeeding in the COVID-19 pandemic, breastfeeding newborn babies, breastfeeding and immunity, breastfeeding and health, indian express news Expressing breast milk is important to sustain milk production so you can breastfeed your baby again when you feel well enough to do so. (Photo: Getty/Thinkstock)

Should I breastfeed if I have/suspect COVID-19?

Yes, continue breastfeeding with appropriate precautions. These include: wearing a mask during breastfeeding, washing your hands with soap and water before and after touching your baby, wiping and disinfecting surfaces you have touched. Wash your breasts and keep them covered after breastfeeding. You don’t need to wash your breasts before every feeding unless you coughed over it.

Other measures include:

* Coughing or sneezing into a tissue and disposing immediately.
* Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces regularly.
* Wearing a mask where possible.
* Keeping the baby at least 6-feet away from your bed or in the next room if possible.
* Routine baby care by a healthy relative when not breastfeeding.

What should I do if I’m too unwell to breastfeed?

If you are feeling too sick, try to find other ways to safely provide your baby with breast milk. Try expressing milk and feeding your baby via clean palladia or cup and spoon. Expressing breast milk is also important to sustain milk production so you can breastfeed your baby again when you feel well enough to do so.

Should I breastfeed if my baby is sick?

Continue to breastfeed your baby if they take ill. Whether your little one contracts COVID-19 or another illness, it is important to continue nourishing with breast milk. Breastfeeding boosts your baby’s immune system, and your antibodies are passed to them through the milk.

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