A pandemic like COVID-19 can be intimidating for all but more so for pregnant women and lactating mothers. With two lives at stake, one of the nurturer and the other just blooming from the shoot, the risk and dangers are manifold. However, the good news is that new mothers are equipped by nature’s biggest defence mechanism that can protect their newborn from any external attack, i.e., the miraculous Breast milk or Chest’s milk.
Loaded with essential vitamins and antibodies, breast milk is not only the first natural food of a baby but also the first immunity-building source. It is the best source of nutrition for babies and protects them from illness. Breastfeeding a baby is indeed every mother’s pride and privilege, however, the big question faced by lactating mothers during this pandemic is- can coronavirus be passed on through breast milk to the baby and how to protect themselves and their babies during this lactation phase.
Read below to ease out your worries:
Tips for Lactating Mothers to Keep Themselves and their Babies Safe During COVID-19
- Maintain utmost hygiene while breastfeeding: Studies so far suggest that the deadly virus is not passed on through the breast milk and so lactating mothers are advised to continue feeding their babies while practising all hygiene and cleanliness precautions. The 3 major hygiene practices to be followed are:
- Wearing a good quality mask while breastfeeding the baby
- Washing hands with soap or liquid hand wash before and after touching the baby
- Wiping and disinfecting surfaces coming in contact regularly
Even if you have not contracted the virus, as a precautionary measure, always wear a mask while breastfeeding your baby.
- Continue to breastfeed even if you fall sick: The biggest concern for a new mother is what if she falls sick with the coronavirus just before giving birth or while breastfeeding her baby. Well, the answer to this is to continue lactating without any worries because surprisingly, even if you are infected, your breast milk contains immune factors (antibodies) that protect your baby and enhance their immune responses against the virus. In other words, continuing to breastfeed is the best way to protect your baby from the deadly virus.
- When too sick to breastfeed, use a cup and spoon to feed the baby with expressed milk: If unfortunately, you are too sick by the virus attack, seek medical advice immediately. Try to express your milk from time to time using a sanitized breast pump and ask a non-infected family member to feed the baby using a clean spoon and cup. Remember, in such a scenario maintaining hygiene at all levels of lactation becomes all the more important, especially while expressing and storing the breast milk.
Can Breast-Feeding Mothers have the Covid-19 Vaccine: Guidelines from the Australian Department of Health
A growing concern amongst many lactating mothers is whether they can avail the COVID-19 vaccine to protect themselves from the risk of coronavirus. To clear the air, the Australian Department of Health has come up with certain profound guidelines on the same. It states that while earlier pregnant and breastfeeding mothers were excluded from COVID-19 studies, recent studies on what is known about similar vaccines suggest that the risk is low for them.
Further, the Australian Department of Health has indicated that lactating mothers can administer the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine at any time and they do not need to stop breastfeeding before or after the vaccination.
Similarly, World Health Organisation has also indicated that breastfeeding women can be vaccinated against COVID-19 whenever they are part of the group for whom the vaccination is recommended. It further states that irrespective of vaccination, new mothers should continue breastfeeding their babies. However, as a precautionary measure, it is always recommended that breastfeeding women should consult their health practitioners about receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
Not to mention, as we are still in the infancy stage of the COVID-19 vaccine timeline, offering coronavirus vaccine to pregnant and breastfeeding mothers is still a matter of review and subject to many trials, tests, and authentic research.
The Bottom Line
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly changed lives in unprecedented ways and while the world has become more cautious and self-aware in terms of hygiene and social distancing, expecting and lactating mothers have all the more responsibility to shoulder. However, clearing the air of apprehensions and misconceptions, the bottom line is that breastfeeding is the biggest rescue for lactating mothers to protect their babies from the virus that has disrupted the world.
So worry no more as you curl up your little one in your arms and bring her close to your skin for an indulging session of pure unconditional love….happy feeding!