In an effort to prevent infants being infected with SARS-CoV-2, some governments, professional organisations, and health facilities are instituting policies that isolate newborns from their mothers and otherwise prevent or impede breastfeeding. Such policies are risky as was shown in the early response to the HIV pandemic where efforts to prevent mother to child transmission by replacing breastfeeding with infant formula feeding ultimately resulted in more infant deaths. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of maternal SARS-CoV-2 transmission needs to be weighed against the protection skin-to-skin contact, maternal proximity, and breastfeeding affords infants.
Policy makers and practitioners need to learn from the mistakes of the HIV pandemic and not undermine breastfeeding in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear that in order to maximise infant health and wellbeing, COVID-19 policies should support skin-to-skin contact, maternal proximity, and breastfeeding.
Int Breastfeed J 2020 07 25;15(1):67. Epub 2020 Jul 25.
Department of Pediatrics and Child Health, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa.
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