The novel coronavirus has crashed into our world, leaving behind it a wake of uncertainty.
It seems that the more we learn about this virus, the more questions begin to arise. When I ask the families I work with why they wish to breastfeed, "health benefits" is a near-universal response. The protective effects of breastmilk on the infant's burgeoning immune system are widely known and appreciated. Many families are understandably concerned about the safety of breastfeeding and COVID-19.
Immediate skin-to-skin contact (whenever possible) after birth has extensive benefits for parent and infant, particularly with respect to the establishment of breastfeeding. Tragically, in recent months, many parents have been separated from their infants immediately after birth due to confirmed or suspected COVID-19 infection. Emerging data have shown this practice to be unnecessary and that parents should be allowed to room-in with infants. In "Neonatal management and outcomes during the COVID-19 pandemic: an observation cohort study," published July 23, 2020 in The Lancet Salvatore et al. conclude:
Our data suggest that perinatal transmission of COVID-19 is unlikely to occur if correct hygiene precautions are undertaken, and that allowing neonates to room in with their mothers and direct breastfeeding are safe procedures when paired with effective parental education of infant protective strategies.
Families should feel empowered to discuss the current scientific evidence and research with their care providers.
Additional Reading and Resources: