Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Breastfeeding mothers-whether they are “suspected COVID19 or are COVID19 positive”-must be encouraged to fulfill their obligations to their newborns and babies.
“Mothers and infants (should be provided with the necessary facilities) for rooming-in, skin-to-skin, and the kangaroo (whereby the mother hold her newborn to her bare chest within the hour after delivery),” said World Health Organisation (WHO) director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Ghebreyesus remarked on the value of breastfeeding and the provisions it entails when he led the twice-a-week WHO Media Briefing on the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) from Geneva, Switzerland on Monday afternoon ( 2p.m. UAE time).
Ghebreyesus was with WHO-Health Emergencies Programme executive director Dr. Michael Joseph Ryan and WHO-Health Emergencies Programme Technical lead Dr. Maria Kherkova. They repeatedly stated that governments and civil society must “Do It All” across the globe with regards to COVID19 as cases are either on the continuous surge or resurgence.
In his opening statement, Ghebreyesus said Aug. 1 to 7 is “Breastfeeding Awareness Week.” He claimed there are no indications that COVID19 could be transmitted through breastfeeding and therefore, nursing mothers must breastfeed their babies for their optimum health.
The “Breastfeeding Awareness Week” is currently observed by 120 countries. The World Alliance on Breastfeeding, United Children’s Fund (Unicef) and WHO envisioned it in 1991 with the goal of having all nursing mothers imbibe the practice of exclusive breastfeeding their babies during their first six months and doing away with the infant formula.
The theme for 2020 is “Support Breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet.”
Gulf Today email interviewed Zulekha Hospital (Sharjah) specialist paediatrician Dr. Abdul K.M. Manaf, Medcare Women and Children’s Hospital (Dubai) specialist paediatrician Dr. Prabhakar Patil, Emirates Speciality Hospital Neonatal/Prenatal Medicine consultant/paediatrician Dr. Monika Kaushal, Aster Clinic (Dubai) specialist paediatrician Dr. Suma Arun, Canadian Specialist Hospital (Dubai)-Paediatrics & Neonatology Department head Dr. Shoaib Shahzad Khan, and Right Health Clinic (Dubai) specialist paediatrician Dr. Khushbu Verma.
All said that breastmilk is the source of the best and most appropriate nutrients for the physical and mental development of infants, apart from their immune system against diseases being strengthened. They said the closeness and bonding between mothers and their children at every breastfeeding time guarantee that strong sense of love and belongingness as well as security particularly on the part of the child. They reiterated Ghebreyesus’s statement about COVID19 having not been proven to be transmitted via breastfeeding.
They added that would-be nursing mothers must be made fully aware as they ought to be more conscious of practising the anti-COVID19 precautionary measures to ensure hygiene and health among all family members especially their health and their babies.
Verma said: “Every mother should be counselled to take precautions while breastfeeding her child. If possible, expressed milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver.” Manaf said the counseling would help ensure that mothers are not going to spread the virus: “Wash your hands before touching your baby, the breast pump, the feeding bottles and nipples, and make sure that all these are cleaned immediately after use.”
Arun said: “Breastmilk is the natural vaccine to the newborn as it is rich in immune factors and antibodies. Kaushal said: “Despite this COVID19, I would say the benefit is immense and it does not matter if mom is COVID19-free or not. She must and must breastfeed.”
In a joint Unicef and WHO statement, Unicef director general Henrietta H. Fore and Ghebreyesus urged governments, civil society and possible initiative partners to help one another in increasing funding or investments to make skilled breastfeeding counseling available to every woman, to guarantee the training and protection of health workers, and to improve policies as well as strategies on breastfeeding.
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