How does the COVID-19 outbreak impact you as a breastfeeding mom? What about moms who just gave birth, or soon will?
Research is ongoing as it pertains to COVID-19, on all fronts, and the impact it is having on moms and infants is only one piece of the puzzle. The data collected so far is small and not yet substantial enough to reach clear conclusions. But the good news is that to date, no trace of the virus has been detectable in breastmilk.
Per sciencemag.org, “It’s a philosophical question: What do you do when you don’t have data?” says Manuel Schmid, a neonatal expert at the University Hospital Zurich. He and his colleagues have opted for a middle ground, given the known benefits of physical contact and breastfeeding, which boosts a newborn’s immune system. “We advise parents and talk with them about risks and benefits,” he says. The decision is ultimately in the family’s hands, and it depends on factors including the health of the mother and baby.
The powerful immune support of breastmilk is well known and documented, not to mention the overall well-being physical contact provides to newborns. Because of those factors, according to the World Health Organization, the current recommendation for moms is to continue breastfeeding as normal. This applies to whether you are exhibiting symptoms or not. Although if you are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19, you will be advised to practice recommended precautions to avoid passing the virus on to your baby, including wearing a mask when interacting with your baby, washing hands before and after breastfeeding, and routinely disinfecting surfaces and other items touched.
The official statement from WHO is as follows:
“Mothers and infants should be enabled to remain together and practise skin-to-skin contact, kangaroo mother care and to remain together and to practise rooming-in throughout the day and night, especially immediately after birth during establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected, probable or confirmed COVID-19 virus infection.”
What if I'm planning to wean my baby soon?
For moms who are preparing to wean from breastmilk, you may want to postpone weaning for the time being to allow your child to continue to reap the benefits of breastmilk. If nursing is no longer working, consider pumping your breastmilk and bottle-feeding, or offering in a sippy cup.
How can I safely pump breastmilk during this time?
You will want to maintain standard precautions of washing hands before pumping and after, cleaning all pump parts and sterilizing them as recommended by your specific breast pump. In addition, clean any surfaces used during pumping (before and after).
It's probably safe to say we will come out of this pandemic even more grateful than we already were for the incredible attributes of breastmilk! Hang in there, moms. Brighter days ahead.
SOURCES | who.int | cdc.gov | kellymom.com | sciencemag.org
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