Telangana

Safe for infected mothers to breastfeed, say doctors

Dispelling fears of virus transmission through breast milk, doctors have asserted that mothers with COVID-19 can continue feeding their newborns as long as they follow certain hygiene precautions.

It was observed that several new mothers, who tested positive for the virus, kept away from their babies immediately after delivery and refrained from breastfeeding them, fearing they might pass on the infection. Paediatricians, obstetricians and gynaecologists, however, have said breastfeeding is safe if the mothers maintain precautions such as wearing masks and washing their hands before handling their baby.

They said the immunity and quality of nutrition provided by breast milk cannot be replaced by any other source of milk, including formulae milk. In an attempt to allay fears, the specialists also stressed that over 90% of COVID-positive patients are recovering.

No evidence

Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread the virus to babies, according to the latest (May 13, 2021) communication from the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

On the sidelines of a virtual press meet held by National Neonatology Forum (NNF)-Telangana chapter on Sunday, specialist senior doctors from Hyderabad also stressed that there is no established evidence which suggests transmission through breast milk.

Head of Paediatrics department at Niloufer Hospital, T. Usha Rani said the problem of new mothers with COVID-19 choosing alternate sources of milk was observed more during first wave of the pandemic. Now, some of them are getting convinced upon counselling.

“We counsel mothers with COVID-19 to breastfeed their children by maintaining precautions such as wearing masks, washing their hands and keeping the baby six feet away after feeding. Till date, there is no established evidence which suggests that coronavirus transmits from mother to child through breast milk. Instead, breast milk gives immunity to the newborns which lasts through their childhood,” said Dr Usha Rani, who is also a former president of the NNF-Telangana chapter.

Clean up

Regarding cleaning up, she said that taking bath once a day is sufficient. Repeated cleaning will wash away oil secretions leading to cracks on nipples which make feeding difficult, she explained.

Current president of the Telangana Chapter, Srinivas Murki, and professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (OBG) department at Gandhi Hospital T. Vijaya Krishna also urged new mothers to breastfeed by maintaining all precautions, and to lay the baby on their chest.

The mother and child can stay in the same room as long as the former wears a mask and six feet distance is maintained. The mask is important so that they don’t have to repeatedly clean up if they cough or sneeze on the bare breast. Caretakers of the mother-newborn duo have to ensure they too maintain COVID-19 precautions and stay in good health.

During pregnancy

Another common query that the OBGs received from pregnant women was about the precautions that they need to observe to stay safe from COVID-19. Dr Vijaya Krishna said standard measures such as masks, hand hygiene and distancing need to be strictly followed.

She also advised that pregnant women must restrict in-person doctor visits to a minimum unless they have a health emergency or a complication. Tele-consultations were a safer option. In case a pregnant woman does step out, all consultations and medical investigations must be completed on the same day to cut down the number of outdoor visits, the doctor added.


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Printable version | Jun 20, 2021 10:38:31 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/telangana/safe-for-infected-mothers-to-breastfeed-say-doctors/article34574310.ece

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