Nurses pregnant California US
Nurses Janil Wise, left, and Melinda Gruman look over the medical chart for a pregnant patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in Mission Hills, California, on July 10, 2020. A new study has found that mothers with COVID-19 are unlikely to pass the virus to their newborns as long as hygiene precautions are followed. Image Credit: LAT

Washington: Mothers with COVID-19 are unlikely to pass the virus to their newborns as long as hygiene precautions are followed, new research from the US suggests.

An observational study involving 120 babies born to infected mothers in New York found no cases of transmission during childbirth or after two weeks of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact, according to findings published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal. All of the babies were allowed to share a room with their mothers and breastfeed as long as the women wore surgical masks and followed frequent hand- and breast-washing procedures.

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Larger studies may be needed to draw firm conclusions about the risks of transmission, but these latest results can provide “some reassurance” to new mothers, the authors wrote.

The findings support recommendations from the World Health Organisation and the UK’s Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists that breastfeeding and sharing a room can be safe with precautions. They are also in line with updated guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which previously advised that infected mothers and newborns be temporarily separated.

“We know that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are important both for mother-infant bonding and for long-term child health,” said Patricia DeLaMora, a doctor from the Weill Cornell Medicine-New York Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital who jointly led the study. “Our findings suggest that babies born to mothers with COVID-19 infection can still benefit from these safely, if appropriate infection control measures are followed.”

The 120 babies were born to mothers at three hospitals in New York between March 22 and May 17. All underwent tests for COVID-19 within the first 24 hours. Seventy-nine of the babies were tested for the virus again after five to seven days, and 72 received a further test after two weeks. None of the results were positive and none of the babies showed symptoms.