Keeping the necessary rules and norms for lowering coronavirus spread, we are asked to follow social distancing, regular use of sanitizers, and avoid eating anybody’s polluted food. But during this time, where everybody is keeping a distance from one another, coronavirus is not that effective to distant an infant from a mother.
In Wuhan, the place where COVID-19 was generated, newborn infants were asked to be separated from their mothers if they are infected with the coronavirus. They were fed with the formula(substitute for breast milk), thinking that the virus can infect the child and an infected mother's milk. The Centers For Disease Control(CDC), U.S, also said mothers suspected or confirmed about being COVID-19 positive are turning their children as suspect carriers by breastfeeding them.
Above all, humanity is the relation between a mother and her newborn infant is much stronger and significant than coronavirus. World Health Organisation(WHO) says, even if the mother is infected or suspected of coronavirus.
What Does WHO Recommend?
According to the World Health Organisation, the mothers infected for suspected of COVID-19 should be encouraged to continue to breastfeed their infants. Before knowing the fact, you feel a bit scared while feeding your baby, but she should be aware of the benefits of breastfeeding their child.
It is important to make them clear that the consequences of not breastfeeding are much more dangerous than feeding them even if the mother is suspected or infected with COVID-19. Both mother and infant should remain together while rooming-in every time and practice skin-to-skin contact. Even the kangaroo mother does the same with their children immediately after giving birth without knowing anything about COVID-19.
What Made WHO To Recommend This?
WHO performed a case study on 46 mothers and their infants in which the breastmilk sample was tested for COVID-19. It was found that all the mothers were COVID-19 positive, along with 13 infants. But despite being all the mother’s coronavirus positive, the breastmilk of only 3 mothers was positive rest all 43 were negative and healthy.
After doing further researches, it was found that the 3 COVID-19 positive breastmilk was tested positive because of the presence of viral RNA particles and not the live virus. At the end of this research, only one infant was tested positive, but the reason, infant feeding practices were not reported. The rest two were also found negative after eliminating the RNA particles in the breastfeeding milk. But, among all 46, only one infant was found positive with the virus, and the virus's source is still unclear.
This conclusion was made on the basis of the data on feeding practice, case reports, case series or report of the family cluster. Other studies were also conducted, such as cohort studies or case-control studies, but non of them identified the virus's presence in the milk.
RT-PCR is a technique to identify the presence of the virus. It detects and amplifies the viral genetic material in samples but cannot provide information on the virus's viability or infectivity. The breastmilk contains lgA which protects infants against external infection and death.
The reactivity between the lgA antibiotics and the COVID-19 has been detected in the breastmilk but their strength and durability have not been studied to addressing it against the COVID-19 in newborn infants.
What Was The Conclusion Of The Research?
Presence of COVID-19 viral RNA in the breastfeeding milk doesn’t make it viable with an infective virus. For the transmission of coronavirus, the infections need to reach the target site by overcoming the infants' defence system, just entering into the body is not enough.
Keeping the case study in mind, newborn infants are considered at low risk of developing COVID-19 and the ones that are infected experience mild symptoms. It is similar to other zoonotic coronaviruses (SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV) by affecting children less commonly or with mild symptoms.
The lgA antibiotics help protect infants from foreign infection while feeding but its strength has not yet known. Additionally, some other multiple bioactive components protect from infections and improve the child's neurocognitive and immunologic development.
Apart from the milk, skin to skin contact and kangaroo mother care facilitate breastfeeding and enhance thermoregulation, blood glucose control, and maternal-infant attachment, reducing the risk of mortality and severe infection among infants. There are many other benefits of keeping the infant with the mother, such as improves sleep pattern, lowers the rate of behavioural complications, and enhances high-quality parental interactions.
According to the stats, the risk of mortality is 14 folds higher in infants that are not breastfed. You might feel surprised to know that over 820,000 children lives can be saved every year of the age below 5 years if they were breastfed for 0-23 months.
Such a phase of life is beneficial for the infant and protects the mother from breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type 2 diabetes.
Bottom Line Of The Story
Currently, there is not enough data to conclude the vertical transmission of COVID-19 through breastfeeding. But that’s true, in infants, the risk of getting infected with the COVID-19 is low, and even if they get infected, the symptoms are very low and mild. In comparison, the consequences of not breastfeeding and the infant's separation from the mother can be worse and sometimes fatal.
Now, you must have understood breastfeeding is much more important than coronavirus. Breastfeeding gives the infant strength to fight against COVID-19, but without strength, the child will automatically die either due to weakness or by the virus.
Therefore, based on the current evidence, WHO recommends the initiation and continuation of breastfeeding of infants and young children. This also applies to mothers that are COVID-19 positive.