Should Covid positive mothers stay away from newborns? Here’s what experts say

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June 22, 2021 3:09 PM

In many countries, newborn babies are separated from their mothers putting them at higher risk of lifelong health complications even death.

covid mothers, coronavirus infections, covid infections, newbordfs breast feeding, WHO recommendations on Covid mothers, kaaangaaroo careCovid positive mothers can breastfeed newborns . (Getty Image)

Often Covid positive mothers flinch from taking care of their kids or breastfeed them, but neonatal experts opine that breastfeeding infants can only give them the required immunity to fight against infection, Covid-19 being one of them. Here’s what is kangaroo mother’s care and why newborns should not be separated from their mothers even during the pandemic.

Kangaroo mother care is the kind of care given to newborns where the baby is most of the time in skin-to-skin contact with the mother. It is highly recommended, especially for premature, underweight babies. In this process, the baby is made to rest on the mother’s chest and breastfeed for motherly affection and care and to build natural immunity. WHO recommends kangaroo care to all babies weighing less than 2 kilos.

In many countries, newborn babies are separated from their mothers putting them at higher risk of lifelong health complications even death.

But, breastfeeding gives babies protection from life-threatening infections right after birth. A Lancet Eclinical Medicine report on the WHO website highlights the importance of babies being in close contact with parents after birth, especially for the ones who are born too small or born too soon (preterm). The Health organization advises kangaroo care from sharing a room to breastfeeding supported by appropriate infection prevention practices when the mother is suffering from Covid-19 infection.

Can newborns get infection From Covid positive mother?

According to neonatal experts, the risk of contracting the infection is “extremely rare” between an affected mother and a newborn. On the contrary, the risk of the baby getting life-threatening infections is way higher than Covid and only the mother’s breast milk can prove the child with the required nutrients to grow immunity.

According to Dr. Kamaldeep Arora, “vertical transmission” or “placental transmission” of Covid infection between mother and child is “extremely rare”. In the second wave only in four out of hundred deliveries, the babies tested positive after birth at Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, he informed. Else babies were born Covid negative from Covid positive mothers. Even in the rare four cases, the hospital did not stop breastfeeding the kids from their mother and they tested negative within few days. In some cases with the Express Breast Milk process, the infants were fed milk with a spoon if the mothers were not healthy enough to breastfeed them. He also said that no newborn death has occurred due to Covid.

According to Kanya Mukhopadhyay professor at the pediatric department in PGIMER, Chandigarh, the chances of the baby getting Covid is lesser than other conditions. She advised breastfeeding wearing a mask, washing hands, and following Covid appropriate behavior. Dr. Arun Kumar Baranwal, the professor, also advised keeping the baby in touch with Covid positive mother most of the time. “Nothing can take the place of breast milk for the newborns, he said.

Dr Aarora of Dayanand Medical College informed that the doctors had to face hurdles in convincing the families to let the mother stay with the child after getting a discharge from a hospital. Although the decision is left to the families and mothers to decide if she wants to isolate herself from the baby until tested negative, it is recommended that they are not separated or at least feeding babies breast milk continues by feeding them with a spoon if the mother is not stable.

How to Covid positive mothers can breastfeed newborns or pump milk

First, they need to wash their hands before and after touching the infant or feeding equipment. Wear a mask of face cover during the breastfeeding or pumping process. Always use a new pump and clean pump parts after each use.

WHO suggests, Kangaroo mother care has improved the quality of life of preterm, low weight births and reduced infant deaths by 40 per cent, severe infections by 65 per cent, and hypothermia by 70 per cent, but the pandemic has affected the quality of neonatal care increasing suffering and deaths.

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