Panic & anxiety has been on the high during this unusual situation worldwide with a pandemic of Corona Virus (Covid-19) looming on us. Particularly young parents with new-borns and infants feel vulnerable about information given to them on how to manage illness while breastfeeding or caring for a newborn. Here is a guide for young families on this current situation of global crisis.
What is Corona Virus?
According to the World Health organisation Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which may cause illness in animals or humans. In humans, several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory infections ranging from the common cold with mild symptoms to more severe respiratory diseases that may need intensive care.
How contagious is it & how does it transmit?
It is considered to be highly contagious and it is transmit via droplets of sneeze and cough of a person who is already infected. Therefore frequent washing of hands has been highly recommended.
I am breastfeeding my baby, should I worry about Covid-19?
Mother’s milk provides immune protection against many different illnesses such as respiratory illnesses like SARS-CoV or Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Both these viruses were a form of Corona Viruses.
How does my baby get immune protection from me & my milk?
Mother’s milk is produced in the mammary glands which is a part of the secretory immune system. Breast milk contain antibodies which can highly targeted against infectious disease viruses & bacteria found in mother’s surroundings. The immunoglobulin which are immune boosters are found abundant in breast milk. More compelling scientific evidence comes from studies of the effects of Human Milk oligosaccharides (HMOs) against all kinds of infectious diseases. So far scientists have found over 200+ human milk oligosaccharides.
What is amazing is the pathway these antibodies take in the mother’s body to reach her baby. The pathway is unique and irreplaceable any other method of feeding. This pathway maybe likely damned during expressed breastmilk in a bottle. This pathway is called Entero-Mammary Pathway. The Mother's Gut contains millions of neurons which is more than 70% of the immune system. The pathogens that enter the mother’s body triggers a process of making of the antibodies in the mother’s gut. These antibodies in the mother’s gut travel to the mammary gland and enter the milk.
Babies receive antibodies specific to the mother’s intestinal pathogens.
I am a breastfeeding mother & have tested positive for Covid-19 Infection, should I continue breastfeeding my baby?
The limited studies have shown that the corona viruses are not found or detected in breast milk. COVID-19 infection is seen to produce mild symptoms, especially for babies & children. Therefore you should be able to safely continue breastfeeding your baby with basic precaution to ensure you keep your hands clean before handling your baby or during diaper changes.
If you are too sick to feed your baby at the breast which sometimes can occurs in small percentage of infected population, you can continue to express your milk and offer it to your baby. Ensure to wash your hands well and sterilise your pumping equipment before expressing. It is best to be in touch with your Lactation Consultant for help and support during your illness.
Should I stop breastfeeding if I am on medications?
Many medication do pass into breast milk however the amount is known to be insignificant often. Most antiviral drugs are known to be safe for baby. However it is best to refer to Drugs and Lactation Database LACTMED and similar services for safety of the drugs used. Drugs and Lactation Databases includes information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects in the nursing infant. Alternatives to those drugs are provided, where appropriate. All data come from scientific literature and are fully referenced. A peer review panel reviews the data for scientific validity and currency.
What If I need hospitalisation?
In you require hospitalisation, depending on your condition, you may be allowed to room-in with your baby with all necessary precautions while you are in isolation. Using a facemask and keeping hands washing hygiene may be critical during caring for your baby during treatment. Sometime they may need to add a separation screen or another room between you and your baby if your condition requires isolation. In such a situation you may need to express milk and allow a non-infected person to feed the baby.