A paediatrician, Dr. Rose Ameh, says breastfeeding mothers with the COVID-19 virus can still breastfeed their babies because breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact are beneficial to both baby and mother.
Ameh told the News Agency of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja that breastfeeding offers a variety of health benefits not only to an infant but also to a young mother.
“Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contacts are beneficial for both baby and mother as it improves babies’ survival, enhances brain development, and reduces the risk of serious illness and death.
“These benefits substantially outweigh the risks posed by COVID-19.
“Breastfeeding helps the mother to return to her pre-pregnancy weight and reduces the risk of developing breast, ovarian, and uterus cancer.
“It also lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and post-menopausal osteoporosis in the future.
“Coronavirus is yet to be found in breast milk. However, if you have COVID-19, you might spread the virus to your infant through tiny droplets that spread when you talk, cough or sneeze,’’ Ameh said.
She advised mothers to take precautions by limiting close face-to-face contact with infants, not cough or sneeze directly but do that into tissue and trash properly.
“Breast milk is important during public health emergencies, like the COVID-19 pandemic, when it may be more challenging to buy formula and other feeding supplies.
“Your breast milk is the best nutrition for your baby and can protect against many illnesses. While you are sick, you or someone else can give your baby expressed breast milk.
“If you choose to breastfeed or give expressed milk in a bottle, to help prevent spreading the virus to your baby, wash your hands before and after touching your baby, wear a mask while nursing.
“Wash your hands before touching your breast pump or bottle parts, clean all parts after each use and let someone else in your household who is not sick give your baby your expressed breast milk.
“The outbreak of COVID-19 is a stressful time for everyone. This may be especially true for mothers who are breastfeeding and concerned about their baby’s health,’’ Ameh said.
When asked if a donor’s breast milk was safe during the pandemic, the expert noted that donor breast milk that has been screened and pasteurised can be used.
She, however, said that a mother’s own milk should always be the first choice as this was responsive to her and her baby’s environment.
Speaking on if a breastfeeding mother could get inoculated; Ameh stated that evidence suggested that women who were breastfeeding can be offered a COVID-19 vaccine as part of the mass vaccination programme.
“I have patients and I have seen patients who are breastfeeding and have also been vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccines are safe and efficacious, always speak with your health care provider,” she advised.