Breastfeeding in Covid-19 times: An expert debunks 6 myths

Breastfeeding during Covid-19 times is surrounded by misinformation. An expert clears your doubts about it.
breastfeeding with carpal tunnel syndrome
Post-pregnancy, you may continue to feel the pain of Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Dr Sujeet Ranjan Published: 19 Feb 2022, 15:00 pm IST
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The first thousand days of a child’s life – from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday – is a completely unique period which helps in strengthening the foundation of a healthy life. It establishes a child’s growth – physical, mental, ability to learn, etc – and contributes to a community’s nutritional indicators, such as long-term health, stability, and prosperity. One of the most essential ways to maintain good health among children is breastfeeding. Not only does it act as a baby’s first natural vaccine, but it is also the best way to shield a child against potential infections, viruses, and diseases. With Covid-19, it has been observed that there are numerous challenges and misinformation surrounding breastfeeding in these times. The following points may help in demystifying them.

Here are some FAQs about breastfeeding during Covid-19 times:

Question 1: Can Covid-19 be passed through breastfeeding?

Answer: Covid-19 has not been detected in the breastmilk of any mother with confirmed/suspected Covid-19. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Covid-19 would be transmitted through breastfeeding or by giving breastmilk that has been expressed by a mother with confirmed/suspected Covid-19.

breastfeeding during Covid-19
Do not take breastfeeding lightly. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Question 2: In communities where Covid-19 is prevalent, should the mothers breastfeed?

Answer: Yes, in all socio-economic settings, breastfeeding improves survival and provides lifelong health and development advantages to new-borns and infants. Breastfeeding also improves the health of mothers. In contrast, the transmission of Covid-19 through breastmilk and breastfeeding has not been detected.

Question 3: If a mother is confirmed/suspected to have Covid-19, should she continue breastfeeding?

Answer: Yes, high quality evidence shows that breastfeeding reduces neonatal, infant, and child mortality everywhere and improves lifelong health and development in all geographies and economic settings. The transmission of Cocid-19 through breastmilk and breastfeeding has not been detected. While breastfeeding, a mother should still practice appropriate hygiene measures, including wearing a medical mask if available, to reduce the possibility of droplets with Covid-19 being spread to her infant.

Also, read: Does Covid-19 cause an impact on breastfeeding? Let’s find out

Question 4: Should mothers continue breastfeeding if the infant or young child becomes sick with suspected, probable, or confirmed Covid-19 or any other illness?

Answer: Yes. During an illness, infants need to be breastfed more often. Withholding breast milk during an illness increases the possibility that the baby will get sick and deprives the baby of the superior nutrition from breast milk including the immunological benefits. Caregivers should increase children’s fluid intake during illness by frequent breastfeeding. For children older than six months encourage the child to eat (for example, by offering soft, appetizing or favorite foods). After illness, caregivers should provide meals more frequently than usual and encourage the child to eat more.

Question 5: Should women currently breastfeeding or providing expressed milk receive the vaccines?

Answer: Yes. The national expert group on immunization has reviewed available data on safety and efficacy and recommended vaccination in lactating mothers. Health workers should counsel and support breastfeeding women for vaccination.

breastfeeding during Covid-19
Breastfeeding benefits both the mother and the child! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Question 6: Is it safe for mothers to breastfeed after they are vaccinated?

Answer: Yes, mothers who are vaccinated should be encouraged to continue breastfeeding to protect their infants. Breastfeeding is vital for infants’ and mothers’ health.

The last word

Only our continued efforts and commitment at all levels, across societies, will help in protecting the future generations of our great nation. Time is of the essence as many women are pregnant, and many more will deliver their babies, today, with an even more number of adolescent and young women in sensitive periods of physical and mental development. Dispelling these myths and notions about breastfeeding will assist and take our society forward towards a healthier, nutrition-positive India.

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About the Author

Dr Sujeet Ranjan, Associate Director – Nutrition, Tata Trusts

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