Tongue tie in newborns can interfere with a baby's ability to breastfeed Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: Breastfeeding mothers, even if they have contracted coronavirus (COVID-19), can still breastfeed their babies while taking all necessary safety measures, according to health experts.

In line with this, the Sharjah Child Friendly Office (SCFO) has recently launched an awareness campaign aimed at hospitals, health care providers and mothers, advising them to continue breastfeeding even when mothers have contracted the virus.

The campaign is supported by the Emirates Public Health Association (EPHA) and comes as part of SCFO’s ‘Sharjah Baby and Family Friendly’ project.

According to an advisory issued by the World Health Organisation (WHO), coronavirus has not been found in samples of breastmilk and mothers with COVID-19 can breastfeed.

The primary concern is whether an infected mother can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets. The SCFO strongly advised mothers and caregivers should take precautions to avoid spreading the virus to the infant by washing hands before holding the baby, and wearing a face mask when in close contact with the baby.

“A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or who is a symptomatic person-under-investigation for COVID-19 should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant, including washing her hands before touching the infant and wearing a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast,” SCFO said in a statement sent to Gulf News.

The SCFO also advised: “When expressing breastmilk with a manual or electric breast pump, the mother should wash her hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use. If possible, she should also consider having someone who is not infected to care for and feed the expressed breastmilk to the infant.”

Dr Hessa Khalfan Al Ghazal, Executive Director of SCFO, said: “The pandemic’s outbreak has sparked the spreading of a lot of misinformation that can jeopardise people’s safety and wellbeing. Keeping in mind how crucial breastfeeding is to a baby’s health and development, SCFO has launched this awareness campaign to provide mothers as well as healthcare providers with the latest and most credible information regarding breastfeeding, breastmilk, and the health and safety of mothers and their babies.”

“According to WHO as well as other organisations such as the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and the International Lactation Consultant Association, limited studies on breastfeeding women with COVID-19 and other coronavirus infections have not detected the virus in breast milk,” she underlined.

Dr Al Ghazal continued: “In such circumstances, WHO has recommended that a mother with COVID-19 continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk while taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant.”

She emphasised: “Breastfeeding is particularly effective against infectious diseases because it strengthens the immune system by directly transferring antibodies from the mother. Hence, we advise mothers to continue breastfeeding their babies, without failing to take standard precautions.”

Dr. Saif Darwish, Community Medicine Specialist, and spokesperson of EPHA, lauded SCFO’s efforts to correct misinformation that may negatively impact mothers and their infants.

He noted: “Institutional responsibilities have increased as nations do everything possible to safeguard their citizens from the COVID-19 pandemic. It is their duty to adhere to and implement all measures taken by their governments to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their communities.”

SCFO has launched the campaign on its social media platform (@sharjahbabyfamilyfriendly) and through direct communication with hospitals, health centres and healthcare providers.