COVID positive mothers can breastfeed newborns with adequate precautions


Only about 1% of newborns in India have acquired infection from Covid-positive mothers due to vertical transmission

BENGALURU / September 19, 2020 – A Covid-positive mother can hold and breastfeed her newborn child provided adequate precautions are taken by her such as wearing a N95 mask and hand sanitization, said Dr. BK Vishwanath Bhat, Pediatrician and MD, Radhakrishna Multi-specialty Hospital.

“Breast-feeding can be continued in Covid-19 positive mothers provided they wear a N95 mask, clean their chest and sanitize their hands before feeding the newborn. This is very important as a Covid19-positive mother can infect others for at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms of infection. During this period, other healthy members in the family should take care of the newborn when the mother is not breast feeding. They should also wear PPE when they go near the mother until she becomes non-infective. Another option is to feed the newborn expressed milk from the mother by the caregiver to minimize the chances of infection,” he said. The present week is being observed as the Newborn Care Week worldwide.

According to the doctor, Covid infection has no special impact on pregnancy and its outcome. Covid-infected pregnant women usually remain asymptomatic during pregnancy and childbirth. Talking about the risk of Covid to newborns, Dr. BK Vishwanath Bhat said: “In Covid-positive mothers, there are chances of the virus infecting the placenta close to delivery. Currently, the incidence of Covid infection in newborns is miniscule. Around 1% of newborns in India have acquired infection from Covid-positive mothers due to such vertical transmission. This is much lower compared to the worldwide figures of 6-7%. After birth, newborns can get Covid from mother or any other person through the airborne route if they are patients in active phase of the infection. Hence precautions like wearing N95 mask and hand sanitization are necessary when going near the infant.”

Busting several prevalent myths about pregnancy in Covid times, the doctor said: “Pregnancy doesn’t increase the risk of getting Covid-19, which is an airborne infection. It affects pregnant women no more than any other woman if they are exposed to a Covid-19 patient. It also a myth that pregnant women with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 need to give birth by caesarean section only. This is not mandatory. The mode of delivery depends on the condition of the expecting mother and fetus, like any other pregnant woman.”

Talking about the precautions that healthy parents of newborns should take in Covid times, Dr. BK Vishwanath Bhat said: “Parents of healthy newborns should take all necessary precautions when they go out to avoid getting infected, like wearing a mask, social distancing, and hand sanitisation. They should change their clothes and clean themselves once they come home. They should also avoid exposing the infant to other people as much as possible, and sanitize everything that comes in contact with the baby.”

He added: “Breast milk is the best food for a newborn till six months of age. No alternative milk can replace mothers’ milk. Breast milk is a live food and it has ingredients like antibodies which give passive immunity to the newborn and infants from contracting a variety of diseases. Mother should also take a balanced diet.”

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