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Breastfeeding considered safe during Covid pandemic, say experts

Dr Ketan Bharadva, president of Human Milk Banking Association (India) and president of Infant and Young Child Feeding Chapter of Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said that breastfeeding is considered safe during Covid-19.

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune |
August 4, 2020 11:34:45 pm
World Breastfeeding Week, Breastfeeding safe, covid pandemic, Coronavirus crisis, Indian express news According to Sayali Sathe, lactation counselor and nectar human milk bank in-charge at KEM Hospital, this year, the theme is ‘Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet’. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

The current Covid-19 pandemic has raised concerns about the safety of breastfeeding for both mother and baby. With World Breastfeeding Week underway from August 1 to 7 , experts told The Indian Express that organisations such as WHO, UNICEF, Indian Academy of Paediatrics and other apex bodies on health have encouraged mothers with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 to initiate or continue to breastfeed.

Dr Ketan Bharadva, president of Human Milk Banking Association (India) and president of Infant and Young Child Feeding Chapter of Indian Academy of Paediatrics, said that breastfeeding is considered safe during Covid-19. “This advice is recommended by most apex bodies of health,” he said.

These recommendations are based on weighing risks versus benefits from whatever limited scientific evidence is available in specific context of the SARS COV-2 virus, and on the basis of observations from other epidemics in the past and established advantages of breastmilk, said Dr Bharadva,

For safety, the mother should take standard hygiene precautions, including wearing a mask and sanitisation during breastfeeding, cough and sneeze hygiene and disinfection of surfaces to prevent respiratory and fomite-borne transmissions, said the expert.

“Covid-19 has not yet been found to be transmitted from mother to the child via breast milk,” Dr Bharadva said, adding that sourcing milk from human milk banks is safe during the pandemic. “For infants whose mother’s milk cannot be available for whatever reason, the next best option is pasteurised donor human milk from a scientifically-operated standard milk bank. There is convincing evidence in scientific journals that coronavirus is killed by pasteurising milk by Holder Method. Standard milk banks routinely use the Holder Method,” said Dr Bharadva.

According to Sayali Sathe, lactation counselor and nectar human milk bank in-charge at KEM Hospital, this year, the theme is ‘Support breastfeeding for a healthier planet’. “Babies who are given feeds other than breast milk are known to have lesser immunity, more illnesses and require more hospitalisations,” Sathe said, adding that breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby’s life is important for optimum growth and health of the baby.

Amrita Desai, assistant manager, lactation, at Cloudnine Hospital, said that mothers should be counselled that benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.

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