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Aug 6, 2020

Healthy Living: Breastfeeding in COVID

It is world breastfeeding week. It is being celebrated under the theme, “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet.”  But what are the risks associated with breastfeeding during a pandemic? We find out in tonight’s healthy living. 


Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

Parents are naturally protective of their children’s mainly in the first few years of the child’s life. For the past few years, we have seen an increase in messages promoting the practice of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of baby’s life. These efforts have led to a rise in breastfeeding statistics. Still, now, with the new pandemic reality, health officials are concerned that those numbers may go down.


Robyn Daly

Robyn Daly, Nutritionist, Ministry of Health

“Our national statistics show thirty-three point two of exclusive breastfeeding, so that would mean that this is the number that persons who are just giving breast for six months, nothing else. That is the number where we stand. It’s pretty low, but it is a big improvement from where we were before.   It’s quite possible with what we see so far that the numbers would decline because persons have a concern about doing skin to skin. Persons are not exposed to that education that they would be getting as much in the clinics since they are only going for certain appointments. So the scale-up communication we use to do, education has decreased since we are not able to conduct as many sessions as we would like.”


The biggest challenge in today’s reality is that breastfeeding advocacy, and guidance usually starts during pregnancy when a woman visits her clinic for check-ups. But these days those clinic visits are not as frequent.


Robyn Daly

“Women need to be convinced. They need to have counseling. They need to have education sessions. They also need to be able to voice their concerns with the challenges they have and if they are not visiting the clinics as much due to situation and people are not on the ground doing as many sessions we would expect a decline.  We know the concern is there that women might feel it’s safer to have the baby close to their breast or not have the baby close to them as a protective means. We follow the WHO protocols, and it’s a still advised to do the skin to skin contact and this even after the baby is born within the first hour or first two hours they should have skin to skin contact, and the baby should be exposed to the breast.”


According to the World Health Organization, as of June 2020: “at present, data are not sufficient to conclude vertical transmission of COVID-19 through breastfeeding.  In infants, the risk of COVID-19 infection is low; the infection is typically mild or asymptomatic, while the consequences of not breastfeeding and separation between mother and child can be significant. At this point, it appears that COVID-19 in infants and children represents a much lower threat to survival and health than other infections that breastfeeding is protective against.”


Robyn Daly

“Breast milk is the best form of nutrition that a baby can get. It has the nutrients, all the minerals, all that the baby needs. The first breast milk that comes out the colostrums is the most important; it helps to support the baby’s immune system. It makes babies grow quicker, learn better; it also helps as well to make the bay less susceptible to diseases.  So the baby will not get sick often. Many times babies tend to have a weak stomach that is sensitive to the formula, so it tends to strengthen the intestinal tract and the stomach, so the baby has less diarrhea, less asthma, all these things can be diminished with the exclusive breastfeeding. Normally if you put the baby first to the breast then its more expected that the baby will continue breastfeeding but if the first form of food given to the baby is the formula, it kind of defeats the purpose of exclusive breastfeeding. So we have to have our personnel trained and understand how to explain to the mother and convince her to make sure that the skin to skin contact is done and it’s ok to breastfeed we just have to keep up our hygienic measures.  If she’s really too ill to breastfeed, she can pump. So were’ expecting the mom to breastfeed. We are not moving away from breastfeeding and say use formula. That will not be our recommendation. She can express milk boy hand or by using a breast pump or she can use. Cup and a spoon to give the baby or she can just breastfeed the natural way.”


The recommendations include proper hand washing, using a mask while nursing, proper cough etiquette and cleaning and disinfecting all the surfaces that the baby will come in contact with.


Robyn Daly

For those mothers who are expecting and those mothers who actually have newborns we strongly courage yo to continue breastfeeding. If you have doubted it and you may have stopped and you would like to come back on track. The lactation counselors can help you. You actually can start breastfeeding again even if you stopped.”


You can contact lactation counselors through the Ministry of Health or your nearest clinic. The critical thing to remember; that even in a pandemic breast is still best.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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