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Breastfeeding and Caring For Newborns During COVID'19.

Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended by the WHO for babies up to 6 months and continues breastfeeding afterwards complementing it with essential foods up till 2 years and beyond depending on the mother and baby. We have always emphasized skin-to-skin contact which is also known as kangaroo care for babies. It helps both the mother and the newborn to adjust to the new change. Skin-to-skin contact helps you and your body to bond with your baby and such bond further leads to better growth and development of the newborn and has also proved to be very effective in reducing after-birth fatalities.

However, due to the outbreak of the coronavirus which is highly infectious, people are dubious about breastfeeding newborns if suspected, being affected by the virus. Being a mother, I understand the frustration,helpLessness and anxiety the moms are going through because of the pandemic. Also different and varied advice is further adding to the confusion.So, the first thing we as mothers need to do is just ignore unprofessional advice. Trust your instincts and follow up with your healthcare advisor for all the queries.

Why should we breastfeed even in COVID?

To be honest, recommendations for mother-infant touch and breastfeeding must take into account not only the risk of COVID-19 infection in the infant but also the risks of morbidity and mortality in association with not breastfeeding, the improper use of infant formula milk and the protective effects of skin-to-skin contact.When making choices we always to weight benefits vs risks involved. We need to look at the complete picture before we decide on anything as our current choices will have a long term effect on the baby.Let's look at some facts!

Breast milk, according to current data, is unlikely to transmit the virus to infants. You should determine when and how to start or continue breastfeeding with the help of your family and healthcare providers. Breast milk is the safest source of nutrition for babies and protects them from a variety of illnesses.

Continue Breastfeeding While Maintaining Good Hygiene

A baby's main chance of contracting the virus is through direct contact with the mother or another infected family member. If someone in the house is sick, take special precautions to protect your baby by following these three Ws.

  1. Wear a mask while breastfeeding

  2. Wash your hands properly with soap and water before and after coming in contact with the newborn.

  3. Wipe and sanitize surfaces regularly

Some mothers make it a habit to wear a mask when feeding their children to ensure that they are completely covered. If a mother believes she has been infected with coronavirus, she should express her breastmilk and feed the baby with a clean cup or spoon.

If you become ill, take extra precautions and continue to breastfeed.

Mothers who catch the coronavirus shortly before giving birth as well as those who become infected while breastfeeding, develop immune factors (antibodies) in their milk to protect their babies and boost their own immune responses. This suggests that the only way to battle the virus and protect your baby is to continue breastfeeding.

As per WHO guidelines breastfeeding should not be discontinued as benefits outweigh the risks.

Also if the mother is put on steroids and medication that is contraindicated during breastfeeding then the mother should pump and dump to maintain their supply. Breastfeeding should resume as soon as the mother gets a go ahead from their doctor.

Don't fall for just home remedies and ignore your health. Visit a doctor at the earliest, he will be able to give professional advice regarding your health and your nursing process. Difficulty in breathing, fever or cough should not be taken lightly. It can prove to be disastrous not just for you but the baby as well.

Breastfeeding mothers can continue to do so, taking extra precautions with hygiene by following the 3 Ws, which includes wearing a mask while near the infant.

If you are too sick to breastfeed, try expressing the milk and feed the baby through a bottle or a cup and spoon.

Can lactating mothers get vaccinated?

The government through a recently released notification cleared the air about vaccinating lactating mothers. They said and I quote, "Lactating mothers can get vaccinated. And there is no problem in breastfeeding after vaccination and it must not be halted."

Several false claims have recently surfaced claiming that lactating mothers should wait one or two days before breastfeeding their babies after getting vaccinated. Many false WhatsApp messages have also emerged, advising lactating mothers not to breastfeed their babies right after getting vaccinated. All such reports have been quashed by the Centre.

We are all going through difficult times right now and constant family and peer support can take you a long way. Mothers are going through unusual stress levels because of which they are seeing a dip in your supply. Avoiding reading too many negative stories and focusing on the good is the need of the hour. This too shall pass and we are all in this together!

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