Andile Tshuma, Chronicle Correspondent
THE World Health Organisation (WHO) has said Covid-19 positive mothers can continue to breast feed their children as it is safe to do so.
This was said in a position paper to mark the world breastfeeding week which falls on August 1 to August 7 annually.
Health experts say breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants, including those whose mothers have tested positive for Covid-19.
There is a global movement encouraging mothers to breastfeed exclusively for the first six months and health experts discourage the use of baby formula for mothers who are able to breastfeed.
WHO said studies had proved that breastfeeding does not put babies at risk if the mother tests Covid-19 positive.
“As long as an infected mother takes appropriate precautions, she can breastfeed her baby. Breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological benefits that can help protect against respiratory diseases. A growing body of evidence supports the importance of breastfeeding for a child’s growth, development and health, as well as for helping them avoid obesity and non-communicable diseases later in life,” said WHO.
It said mothers should also be guided by available evidence which shows that Covid-19 has no severe manifestations in children, although further studies were still being done on the virus.
“To date, the virus that causes Covid-19 has not been detected in breast milk. However, as the disease is new, this evidence is based on limited studies. Public health officials are continuing to learn about how the virus spreads and what kind of risks it poses to infants whose mothers have the disease. Of importance, the experience obtained so far shows that the disease course of Covid-19 generally is not severe in infants and young children. The main risk of transmission appears to come from the respiratory tract of an infected mother,” said WHO.
It said mothers must practice respiratory hygiene during feeding, including wearing a mask covering the mouth and nose.
If a mother is too ill to breastfeed due to Covid-19, WHO said she can express milk and have someone else feed the baby, or relactate, which is the process of resuming breastfeeding after a period of no breastfeeding. — @andile_tshuma