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Breastmilk is both a food and a tonic for the baby. It not only fulfills baby’s nutritional needs but at the same time protects them against illness or allergy. Stopping breastfeeding abruptly can cause a drop in milk supply, a baby’s refusal to take breastfeed later, and reduced intake of protective immune factors by the baby. Also emotionally it is frustrating, stressful, and heartbreaking for the mother.
But when it comes to Coronavirus, a breastfeeding mom’s fears are quite understandable. The highly contagious nature of the disease can cause worry and make mothers wonder, how to protect themselves and their baby and what to do in case of the infection. Hence, we bring about some common concerns of the mother related to this issue.
I Think I Have Symptoms—What Should I Do?
We are all by now well versed with the first symptoms of the disease. First and foremost, do not panic, call up your family doctor and take his/her advice on getting yourself tested and isolating yourself from the other family members. Keeping your baby with you or away from you is purely your own choice as breastfeeding has to continue.
Should I Breastfeed If Tested Positive?
As per the advice given by UNICEF, “Mothers who get coronavirus shortly before giving birth and begin breastfeeding, and those who become infected while breastfeeding, will produce immune factors (antibodies) in their milk to protect their baby and enhance the baby’s own immune responses. This means that continuing to breastfeed is the best way to fight the virus and protect your baby.”
WHO also gives the same advice as to the UNICEF on a continuation of Breastfeeding, if the mother tests positive.
In addition, WHO recommends, “Mother and infant should be enabled to remain together while rooming-in throughout the day and night and to practice skin-to-skin contact, including kangaroo mother care, especially immediately after birth and during the establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.”
Should I Express Milk And Feed If Tested Positive?
If a mother is having mild symptoms, she can feed the baby directly from the breasts. As stated by WHO, mother and baby can stay together, and rooming-in or skin-to-skin contact should be especially practiced if it's the initial stage of breastfeeding. This will ensure a good milk supply plus will also help in establishing a breastfeeding schedule.
In case, if the mother is too sick to breastfeed, then she should seek immediate medical advice. She may still be able to express milk and take the help of a non-infected member of the family to feed the baby using a clean cup or cup and spoon. To keep the baby safe and protected, maintain hygiene and safety during feeding times.
What If I Am Unable To Feed? Should I Resort To Formula?
Breast milk is the healthiest, safest, most protective, and immunity-boosting food for the baby. But under extreme cases, where a mother is unable to breastfeed or where she has decided not to breastfeed, plus formula milk marketing may encourage them to feed baby using bottles and formula milk, then formula milk is the only option. In such a case, it is especially important that the baby should be fed as per the instructions on the packaging and that extra care is taken with thoroughly washing bottles, nipples, and any other equipment used. Remember, the safety and protection that the baby is getting from breast milk are now missing.
The 3 Ws recommended by UNICEF should be followed at all times.
What Are The 3 Ws Recommended By Unicef For Breastfeeding Mums With Covid?
UNICEF recommends, that, since so far, no virus has been found in breast milk, continue breastfeeding, but maintain care and hygiene at all times. For practicing care and hygiene follow the 3 Ws. These include
Wear a mask during feeding,
Wash hands with soap before and after touching the baby,
Wipe and disinfect surfaces regularly.
However, some mothers if feel comfortable, can wear a mask during feeding to ensure that their baby is fully protected.
Any Specific Diet To Recover Quickly
A healthy diet, hygienic conditions, medicines as per the doctor’s advice, rest, and stress-free conditions are key in coming back to normalcy. A healthy diet means a soft easily digestible diet, rich in proteins, which can come from dals, beans, milk, milk products, eggs, plus immunity-boosting foods like, veggies and fruits, and last not the least, lots and lots of fluids. Adding ORS to your fluids can help in refilling your body with electrolytes that you may have lost during fever.
If the diet is poor or has no appetite, try taking more liquids but do not starve as your body needs food and nutrients via food to fight infection and remove toxins. Chaas, homemade kadha, warm milk with turmeric and honey, warm soups made with fresh veggies like carrots, tomatoes, yellow pumpkin, broccoli, with ginger and herbs added are great healers for the body. Home-made custard at room temperature with fruits added can also be a great treat, during these tough times.
Finally to conclude, its tough times, its challenging times, but we have to all remember, ‘This too shall pass’
Stay safe and Stay Healthy.