WHO Encourages Mothers To Breastfeed, Says Benefit Outweighs COVID-19 Risk

Mothers should continue to breastfeed their children as the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of COVID-19 during the pandemic, said WHO Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus Monday, kicking off World Breastfeeding Week.

The risk of transmitting COVID-19 to via breastmilk is low, according to the World Health Organization. So far, there have been no confirmed cases of mother-to-child transmission of COVID-19 by breastfeeding.

Thus, “WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged, the same as all other mothers, to initiate or continue to breastfeed,” said Dr Tedros. “The many benefits of breastfeeding for newborn babies and children substantially outweigh the potential risks for COVID-19 infection.”

Breastmilk contains key nutrients and maternal antibodies, which protect the child against different diseases as their own immune system is developing. Antibodies with reactivity to the COVID-19 virus have been found in breastmilk, although it’s still unknown whether these protect children against infection. Breastfed children also have higher cognitive ability and lower risk of obesity.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light fears that the virus could be transmitted through breastmilk. However, so far only one case of a breastfed infant testing positive for COVID-19 has been reported in studies, and it’s unclear whether the infant was infected via breastmilk, or through droplets from the infected mother.

According to WHO, children are at low risk of COVID-19 infection, and symptoms are typically mild. In light of all the evidence so far, WHO continues to recommend that mothers keep breastfeeding, regardless of infection status. 

Image Credits: WHO.

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