Exclusive breastfeeding is best for babies for the first 6 months. Always initiate breastfeeding within the 1 hour of birth and continue as often and as much as the baby wants.
Breast milk is the best and an important source of nutrition for infants. Though concerns have been raised about whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to their infant or young child through breastfeeding. As this is an evolving virus where there is some suspicion of vertical transmission from the mother to the newborn.
It is a well-known fact that breastfed babies have reduced the risk of respiratory tract infections, asthma, diarrhea in childhood, food allergy, and obesity in adulthood. Benefits for the mother include reduced blood loss following delivery, better uterus shrinkage, lesser postpartum depression, reduces the risk of breast cancer. Breastfeeding is also less expensive than infant formula.
If you are breastfeeding and have symptoms of or confirmed COVID-19, take the following steps to avoid spreading the virus to your baby:
- Wash your hands before touching your baby
- Wear a cloth mask covering your face, if possible, while feeding at the breast
- Wash your hands before touching the pump or bottle parts and clean all the parts after each use
- During temporary separation, mothers who intend to breastfeed should be encouraged to express their breast milk to establish and maintain the milk supply.
- If possible, a dedicated breast pump should be provided. Standard precautions should be followed.
- This expressed breast milk should be fed to the new-born by a healthy caregiver (<60 years of age).
- A mother who has confirmed COVID-19/symptomatic/waiting for reports should put on a facemask and practice hand hygiene before each feeding or other close contact with her new-born.
- Kangaroo care should be promoted, following precautions.
- Women and their healthy babies, who do not otherwise require maternal critical care or neonatal care, should be kept together in the immediate postpartum period. If soap and water are not available, she should use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% isopropyl alcohol.
- A separate isolation room should be available for the infant, while they remain a person under investigation (PUI).
- If rooming-in of the new-born with his/her ill mother in the same hospital room occurs in accordance with the mother’s wishes or is unavoidable due to facility limitations, consider using engineering controls like physical barriers (e.g., a curtain between the mother and new-born) and keeping the new-born ≥6 feet away from the ill mother.
- An isolation NICU should be created, which should be well-equipped.
Criteria of admission to Isolation NICU/Isolation beds:
The isolation NICU is meant for the following babies:
- Unstable neonates of COVID-19 positive/suspect mothers from the Labour room
- Unstable COVID-19 positive babies
- Ensure that at least 1-meter distance separates the neonatal beds
- Ensure adequate cross ventilation. There should be NO central air-conditioning.
- Medical and Nursing staff should be separate from the regular NICU staff.
Personal Protective Equipment: Staff caring for suspected and confirmed COVID-19, should follow strict precautionary measures (Follow the protocol of Donning and Doffing in Postnatal Ward).
Postnatal ward health care workers should use a face mask, face shields or goggles, and perform adequate hand hygiene before and after examining each baby.
Stay safe. Stay positive.
Dr. Lavanya Kiran | Senior Consultant – Obstetrics & Gynaecology | Mazumdar Shaw Medical Center, Bommasandra, Narayana Multispeciality Clinic, Electronic City – Velankani & Narayana Multispeciality Clinic, Jayanagar