“Mothers with symptoms of Covid-19 are advised to wear medical masks, but even if this is not possible, breastfeeding should be continued,” says the World Health Organization amid the rising cases of Covid-19 across the world.
The Global health body confirms that there is no reason to avoid breastfeeding as transmission of active Covid-19 virus through breast milk has not been detected to date. The health body also reminds mothers that breastfeeding unquestionably reduces mortality in new-borns and infants and provides numerous lifelong health and brain development advantages to the child.
According to The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), there are 116 million expected births in approximately 9 months since the coronavirus pandemic was recognized. This clearly shows the possibility of an increased number of women and children who will have to deal with mother-child relationship differently from the groups before them.
WHO encourages mothers of the numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding which substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with Covid-19.
On the question of whether skin to skin contact between a symptomatic mother and a new-born baby is advised, “Immediate and continued skin-to-skin care, including kangaroo mother care, improves the temperature control of new-borns and is associated with improved survival among new-born babies.”
However, mothers are still reminded to take caution by wearing a mask when feeding their babies; washing hands before and after touching the baby and regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.
By mid-May, Kenya had recorded at least three pregnant women who were infected with Covid-19 according to acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth. The news also came at a time when many women opted to go to mid-wives for delivery instead of visiting the hospital due to fear of contracting the virus and being harassed by the police if they are out past the 7pm curfew.
In States such as New York in the US, authorities are looking into alternative birthing centres as many pregnant women are worried about giving birth in hospitals. It is a fear that has been spread to other places of the world and could lead to increased deaths of both mother and child as a result of complications during delivery.
“Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, an estimated 2.8 million pregnant women and new-borns died every year, or 1 every 11 seconds, mostly of preventable causes,” reads a statement from UNICEF.
With the pandemic crippling our health sector and increasing the risk of childbirth both to mother and child, one thing has been widely agreed both by UNICEF and WHO; “benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with the Covid-19 virus.”