WHO: Mothers with Covid-19 can breastfeed

Breastfeeding mothers who have Covid-19 can still breastfeed their infants, the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has said.

He noted that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of infection.

 

"WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged the same as all other mothers to initiate or continue breastfeeding,” Tedros told a news conference on Monday as the world marked breastfeeding awareness week.

 

Health officials on Monday emphasised the importance of breastfeeding, stressing that it is life giving as it boosts children’s immune systems, provides protection from diseases later in life, and protects a mother’s health.

 

A related June 2020 scientific brief by WHO says that "breastfeeding is the cornerstone of infant and young child survival, nutrition and development and maternal health."

The WHO recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years and beyond.

In May, a new report by WHO, UNICEF, and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN) revealed that despite efforts to stop the harmful promotion of breast-milk substitutes, countries are still falling short in protecting parents from misleading information.

The UN health agency, at the time, noted that Covid-19 pandemic highlights the need for stronger legislation to protect families from false claims about the safety of breast-milk substitutes or aggressive marketing practices. It was urged that breastmilk saves children’s lives as it provides antibodies that give babies a healthy boost and protect them against many childhood illnesses.

WHO and UNICEF encourage women to continue to breastfeed during the Covid-19 pandemic, even if they have confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

Researchers continue to test breast milk from mothers with confirmed or suspected Covid-19.

The WHO earlier indicated that current evidence indicates that it is unlikely that Covid-19 would be transmitted through breastfeeding or by giving breastmilk that has been expressed by a mother who is confirmed or suspected to have Covid-19. 

The numerous benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of illness associated with the virus. It was earlier noted that it is not safer to give infant formula milk.

jkaruhanga@newtimesrwanda.com

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