Acting Parish Nutritionist for Westmoreland, Gladoris Robinson-Reid, is encouraging mothers who have contracted the coronavirus (COVID-19) to continue to breastfeed, but they should take the necessary safety precautions to avoid passing on the virus to their babies.
The advice is in keeping with the recommendation from the World Health Organization (WHO) that mothers suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed.
Speaking with JIS News, Mrs. Robinson-Reid said that WHO has found no evidence that the virus can be passed on through lactation.
“The WHO has done its research and has found that in terms of testing for COVID-19, [the virus] has not been found in breast milk. Therefore, it is still going to be beneficial for babies, who have mothers positive with COVID-19, to continue to breastfeed from their mothers,” she said.
Mrs. Robinson-Reid said breast milk still remains the best source of nutrition for babies and it provides much-needed antibodies to protect them against all kinds of infections, including COVID-19.
“In fact, it is going to be more protective for them. Breast milk has protection in the form of colostrum that has the antibodies, which give the baby that defence. As such, we find that it is more protective even in the face of illness rather than not to give breast milk and maybe have that child undernourished,” she noted.
She said that the recommended safety guidelines for mothers suspected or confirmed with COVID-19 is that they must practise proper respiratory hygiene during feeding. This includes wearing a mask and washing the hands with soap and water before each feed, for at least 20 seconds.
Mrs. Robinson-Reid said that if a mother becomes ill and is not able to hold the baby for a long period, “then she can pump or express the breast milk using breast pump or hand expression, always ensuring that hands are washed and sanitised prior to doing same.”
She advised that if a breast pump is utilised, mothers should ensure that it is properly cleaned and sterilised before and after each use.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Robinson-Reid is encouraging new and expectant mothers to exclusively breastfeed their babies from birth to six months, meaning that no other liquids or solids should be introduced at that time.
“Breastfeeding is the cornerstone of infant and young child survival. It provides every child with the best quality nutrition and the best possible start in life. It delivers health, it delivers nutrition and emotional benefits for both infant and mother and forms part of what we call the sustainable food security system.
“Even in this COVID-19 crisis, our … recommendation does not change,” she said.
The Westmoreland Health Services is observing National Breastfeeding Week from September 13-19.