If you are looking for reliable information and tips for keeping mothers and babies safe during the COVID-19 crisis, this article provides guidelines on breastfeeding during COVID-19.
Breast milk is an excellent source of nutrition for most infants, and it protects against many diseases. But mothers worldwide are understandably worried regarding whether the Novel Coronavirus can be passed on through breast milk and what they can do to protect themselves and their babies.
As new information about COVID-19 emerges, reliable child and maternal care guidelines are urgently needed.
1. What is the Recommended Age for Breastfeeding?
If your child is six months old or younger, he/she should be breastfed exclusively. Once your child is over six months, it is recommended to continue breastfeeding with safe and healthy complementary foods.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), breastfeeding should be started within one hour of birth. Infants should be exclusively breastfed until they are six months old. Breastfeeding should continue after the age of six months, along with nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods, until the age of two years old or beyond.
2. Should Mothers Continue Breastfeeding During the Pandemic?
Yes. Breast milk provides antibodies that give babies a healthy boost and protects them against many infections. Antibodies in breast milk can fight against COVID-19 infection if a baby is exposed. To date, the transmission of active COVID-19 virus through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected.
3. What are the Recommended Precautions for Breastfeeding During the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Mothers should continue to breastfeed their children while taking care of hygiene practices recommended during the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes:
- Wearing a mask during breastfeeding.
- Washing hands with soap before and after touching the baby.
- Wiping and disinfecting surfaces regularly.
- Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Washing breastmilk pumps, milk storage containers, and feeding utensils after every use.
Watch the following video by UNICEF and The National Institute of Health Pakistan for breastfeeding mothers.
4. Can Pregnant Women Pass the Virus to Unborn Children?
We don’t know yet. There is not enough evidence to determine whether the Novel Coronavirus can be transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, or the potential impact this may have on the baby. Remember that pregnant women should continue to follow appropriate precautions to protect themselves from exposure to the virus, and seek medical care early, if experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough, or difficulty breathing.
5. Should Mothers Breastfeed if they Have or Suspect to Have COVID-19?
Yes, continue breastfeeding with appropriate precautions. Mothers who get infected by COVID-19 shortly before giving birth and begin breastfeeding, and those who become infected while breastfeeding will produce immune qualities in their milk to protect their baby and enhance the baby’s own immune responses. Continuing to breastfeed is the best way to fight the virus and protect your baby.
If a mother does fall ill with COVID-19 symptoms like fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, she should seek medical care early, and follow instructions from a health care worker. Mothers who are well enough to breastfeed should continue to do so, taking additional care with hygiene by practicing the precautions, including wearing a mask whenever near to the baby.
Watch the following video by UNICEF and The National Institute of Health Pakistan, on safe breastfeeding for mothers suffering from COVID-19.
6. Should I Get a COVID vaccine while I’m Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
Major health authorities worldwide agree it is safe to breastfeed after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. The World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women be vaccinated if they are at a high risk of being infected with COVID-19. Vaccination is even more important for mothers who are front-line health or quarantine workers.
According to World Health Organization, almost all vaccines are safe during pregnancy, and some are recommended to protect women and their babies from infectious diseases. Based on the available information, breastfeeding women can be vaccinated without risk to their babies. Vaccination is safer for pregnant women who work in places where they are at high risk of exposure to COVID-19 than not getting vaccinated.
7. Is Milk the Only Safe Food for Babies During The COVID-19 Pandemic?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends complementing breast milk with a variety of fresh and unprocessed food to give infants according to their age, to fulfill their nutritional requirements, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes (e.g., lentils, beans), nuts, and whole grains.
Have a look at these complete guidelines by WHO regarding complementary feeding and the diet that can be given to babies during the COVID-19 Pandemic here.
The following video by UNICEF and The National Institute of Health Pakistan explains complementary feeding guidelines for infants.
Do you have more questions related to breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic? Ask Bolo your questions by sending us a private message on the Bolo Facebook Page from Monday to Friday, from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.