Newborns will not get COVID through the milk of an infected mother’s breast
A study of 55 children born to mothers with COVID-19 found that no one had contracted the virus, although most began receiving breast milk at the hospital.
The investigators said the findings support advice from public health authorities. Last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) said that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 could continue breastfeeding.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said breast milk is not a “safe” source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission, and infected mothers can breastfeed while taking certain measures.
“If you wash your hands and wearing a mask, there is no reason to breastfeed, ”said Dr. Marcel Yotebieng, an associate professor at Albert Einstein University School of Medicine in New York.
Yotebieng wrote an editorial in the journal on April 13 with the new research Pediatrics.
He said that although breastfeeding recommendations already exist, it is important whether the research continues child infections associated with breast milk occur.
These latest findings do not rule out that possibility, said researcher Dr. Noa Ofek Shlomai, head of the neonatal unit at the Hebrew University Medical Center in Hadassah and Jerusalem.
“But transmission through breast milk is very difficult,” Shlomai said.
For the study, the researchers followed 55 babies born at an Israeli medical center to mothers who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. All newborns tested negative soon after giving birth.
Three-quarters of the babies breastfed during their hospital stay and even 85% breastfed after going home. No one was infected with the coronavirus, according to tests conducted after two or three weeks after leaving the hospital.
In the early days of the pandemic, the Jerusalem hospital had a policy of separating newborns from SARS-CoV-2 positive mothers. Therefore, babies in this study were given pumped breast milk in bottles.
Shlomai said it is no longer necessary as long as protections such as wearing a mask and washing hands are met.
That, too, is in line with existing recommendations, Yotebieng said. In general, the WHO recommends skin contact and breastfeeding shortly after the baby is born, and this also applies to mothers with COVID-19.
Yotebieng posed another question: Is it possible for breast milk to give these babies antibodies against the virus? Antibodies have been detected in the breast milk of infected women, Yotebieng said, but it is unclear whether they help protect babies.
“That’s why we need more research,” he added.
It seems increasingly clear, Shlomai said, that the risk of contracting COVID-19 through breastfeeding babies is “very low”.
According to Yotebieng, any risk should be measured with the “tremendous” benefits of breastfeeding.
On the one hand, it is believed that children’s immune systems develop. According to the CDC, breastfed babies are prone to ear infections, diarrhea, asthma and severe lung infections.
“We should remember that there are also non-SARS-CoV-2 infections,” Yotebieng said.
The World Health Organization has more COVID-19 and breastfeeding.
SOURCES: Noa Ofek Shlomai, MD, head, neonatal unit, Hadassah and Hebrew University Medical Center, Jerusalem, Israel; Marcel Yotebieng, MD, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor, Division of General Internal Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City; Pediatrics, April 13, 2021, online