Mothers who have developed COVID-19 should continue breastfeeding their babies, the World Health Organisation said on Friday.
“Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding and not be separated from their infants, unless the mother is too unwell,” WHO Director-gGeneral Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated during a press conference.
Based on the available evidence, the WHO’s advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19, he added.
The WHO chief termed children to be at a relatively “low risk” of contracting COVID-19, while adding that stopping breastfeeding would put them at risk for other diseases.
Breast milk is known to protect infants from gastrointestinal, ear and respiratory infections. There is also evidence that breast milk transfers protective antibodies from the mother to the baby, helping the babies develop a healthy immune system.
Some studies on infants breastfed in the first few months of life have shown that breast milk can also protect the child from developing allergies.
“So far, we have not been able to detect live virus in breast milk,” Dr Anshu Banerjee, the senior advisoer for the WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, told a press conference, reported Reuters on Friday.
Since only fragments of the virus had been detected in breast milk, Dr Banerjee said the risk of transmission from mother to child has not been established.