Coronavirus-infected mothers should still breastfeed their infants, says WHO
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that based on the available evidence, the agency’s advice is that "the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19".
New mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should generally continue breastfeeding and should not be separated from their babies, the World Health Organization has said, stressing that the benefits outweigh any potential risks of transmission.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it had carefully investigated the risks of women transmitting COVID-19 to their babies during breastfeeding.
"We know that children are at relatively low risk of COVID-19, but are at high risk of numerous other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents," Tedros told a news conference.
"Based on the available evidence, WHO’s advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19," he said, adding: "Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding and not be separated from their infants unless the mother is too unwell."
.@WHO has investigated risks of women transmitting #COVID19 during breastfeeding & developed guidance on how to breastfeed safely.— Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) June 12, 2020
We also developed guidance on self-care interventions to enable women to access services they need during the pandemic: https://t.co/CdIA3Jx5wq pic.twitter.com/GQBr9SS8KQ
Anshu Banerjee, a senior advisor in WHO's Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that only "fragments" of the virus had been detected in breast milk, not live virus.
"So far we have not been able to detect live virus in breast milk," he said. "So the risk of transmission from mother to child so far has not been established."
The UN agency has posted guidelines for health facilities maintaining necessary services for newborn care during the coronavirus pandemic.
Women are encouraged to still touch their infants and are instructed by the WHO to “hold your new born skin to skin,” even when positive for coronavirus.
The WHO also says that mothers should share a room with their newborns and exercise hygienic practices when breastfeeding and holding their infant, such as washing your hands for 20 seconds.
“Breastmilk contains antibodies and other immunological benefits that can help protect against respiratory diseases,” the WHO wrote in a report.
“The experience obtained so far shows that the disease course of COVID-19 generally is not severe in infants and young children,” the agency said. “The main risk of transmission appears to come from the respiratory tract of an infected mother.”