The breast milk is the first vaccine that receives the newborn, is part of your immune organ, also at the Covid-19 and although in the early stages of the pandemic, lack of information, there were doubts, evidence the it places it as a “shield” for the baby against the virus.
On the occasion of the World Breastfeeding Week, which concludes this Friday, there are numerous organizations and medical societies that have emphasized these days on the many benefits that this practice gives both the mother and the baby, also against the coronavirus.
The national coordinator of the international initiative launched by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF, for the humanization of care at birth and breastfeeding (iHAN), Paula Lalaguna, also confirms this in statements to Efe, although she points out that At the beginning of the pandemic, with the uncertainty, “ both breastfeeding and the skin-to-skin” which cost so much to implant “will be thrown a bit on the ground“.
A fact that he captures together with other experts in a review article of the available literature on breastfeeding and Covid-19 published in the National Journal of Public Health, in which they underline that the health crisis has had an “impact” on health care, birth and breastfeeding.
Precisely, as he explains to Efe, the objective of publishing that review article was to insist that the recommendations of the health authorities and medical societies are updated because over the past few months “it has been found that there is no evidence of risk of contagion “to the baby through the milk of the mother with coronavirus.
For her part, the spokesperson for the Spanish Association of Primary Care Pediatrics (AEPap), Cecilia Gómez, tells Efe that fear of COVID-19 has not been observed to have been a cause for stopping breastfeeding once started Breastfeeding but “yes to go out and some initial confusion about whether or not it was possible to go to health centers, has been able to reduce rates a little” in the initial periods for other reasons or frequent doubts.
Doubts, he adds, that were resolved by pediatricians, midwives or breastfeeding groups and that have been consulted later “although breastfeeding has been recommended in maternity hospitals and reviews of the first month of life were never suspended from the start of the pandemic.”
Strong evidence of benefits
If so far there is no evidence that there is vertical transmission from the mother through breastfeeding, “yes there is and very strong of its benefits.” And it is that the “liquid gold” as they sometimes call breast milk is, as Lalaguna affirms, a “shield“.
“It always protects against any disease, it is the first vaccine that the baby receives, most of the diseases suffered by the mother, the antibodies pass through the milk and immunize them thanks to the mother’s milk.”
With the coronavirus it is no different, “nature has shown that it is a very wise mechanism and that it responds exactly the same as other respiratory viruses and other pathologies, with which the mother generates antibodies and those are the ones that are protecting the baby.”
A statement confirmed by the AEPap spokesperson: “Breast milk is a protective shield in the newborn and infant for respiratory diseases of viral and bacterial origin, improves their survival and provides them with benefits for their health”, adds Gómez.
It is also assured by the neonatologist of the Central University Hospital of Asturias and member of the Spanish Society of Neonatology (seNeo), Belén Fernández, who tells Efe that breastfeeding has more benefit against the coronavirus than not doing it.
For this reason, the seNeo recommends from practically the beginning of the pandemic, skin-to-skin between mother and baby after birth and breastfeeding, as well as organizations such as the WHO or Unicef.
Only China maintains that these practices should not be carried out when the mother is positive for Covid-19 and the American Association of Pediatrics, according to Gómez, recommends that if the mother is infected, express the milk but not breastfeed.
Recommendations for safe breastfeeding
From the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP), the head of the Breastfeeding area of the Nutrition and Lactation Committee, Susana Ares, gave these days in a statement some guidelines for those mothers with suspected or confirmed infection to breastfeed safely.
Extreme frequent hand hygiene, especially before touching the baby, as well as cleaning and disinfecting surfaces, are some of them.
She recommends wearing a medical mask while the mother is breastfeeding and covering her mouth and nose with a tissue when sneezing or coughing.
Despite these advice, he maintains that if a mother is infected or / and conditions do not allow breastfeeding, “the best alternative for newborns and infants is the expression of milk”, with extreme hygiene during the process.
Drop in milk donations
The pandemic has also made a dent in the donation of milk, according to Lalaguna, who is also a member of the Spanish Association for the Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding (Aelama).
During the first moments of the health crisis, with the confinement measures, the mothers did not become donors but the donors themselves could not access the milk banks, a situation that “little by little, as we are recovering normality in many things that, while maintaining security measures, are trying to reverse”.
This, according to the article published by Lalaguna, has caused a decrease in premature infants who benefit from donated milk and, therefore, an increase in the risk of developing conditions as serious as neonatal necrotizing enterocolitis.