By Mzukona Mantshontsho
A National Lockdown in South Africa started on Thursday 26 March 2020 at midnight announced by President Cyril Matamela Ramaphosa.
We became meticulous about washing our hands, avoiding handshakes, boosting our immune systems by eating well, minimising unnecessary stress and getting enough exercise and fresh air. We have a plan if we get sick: We know where to go, who to contact and how to care for ourselves.
We also have newborn babies during this pandemic, we need to assure the new mothers that the babies will survive this pandemic.
Breastfeeding is exclusively the healthiest, particularly for the first six months of any baby. Exclusively means:
- Breast Milk only,
- No Water
- No Tea,
- No Juice,
- No Soft Porridge
Working mothers can continue providing breast milk by expressing their breast milk and using a cup to feed their babies. Breast milk protects babies from diarrhea, chest infections and complications, allergies and ear infections.
I had a few questions for Family Physician Dr. Fundile Nyati on what we should tell the new mothers about breastfeeding during this pandemic.
Should baby still be immediately placed skin-to-skin and breastfed if mother is confirmed or suspected to have Covid – 19?
Yes, immediate and continued skin-to-skin care, including kangaroo mother care, improves the temperature control of newborns and is associated with improved survival among newborn babies. Placing the newborn close to the mother also enables early initiation of breastfeeding which also reduces mortality. The numerous benefits of skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with Covid -19.
Mother has confirmed or suspected Covid-19 and is unwell to breastfeed directly, what can she do?
If you are too unwell to breastfeed your baby due to Covid -19 or other complications, you should be supported to safely provide your baby with breast milk in a way possible, available and acceptable to you. This could include:
- Expressing milk,
- Donor human milk.
If expressing breast milk or donor human milk are not feasible then consider wet nursing (another woman breastfeeds the child) or infant formula milk with measures to ensure that it is feasible, correctly prepared, safe and sustainable. Women with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 can breastfeed if they wish to do so. They should:
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub and especially before touching the baby,
- Wear a medical mask during any contact with the baby, including while feeding,
- Sneeze or cough into a tissue. Then dispose of it immediately and wash hands again,
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces that mothers have touched.
It is important to replace medical masks as soon as they become damp and dispose of them immediately. Masks should not be re-used.
If mother is confirmed Covid-19 positive, when can I start to breastfeed again?
You can start to breastfeed when you are well enough to do so. There is no specified time interval to wait after confirmed or suspected Covid-19. There is no evidence that breastfeeding changes the clinical course of Covid-19 in a mother. Health workers or breastfeeding counsellors should support you to relactate.
If mother is confirmed or suspected to have Covid-19 and does not have face mask, should she still be breastfeeding?
Yes, breastfeeding unquestionably reduces mortality in newborns and infants and provides numerous lifelong health and brain development advantages to the child. Mothers with symptoms of Covid-19 are advised to wear a medical mask, but even if it is not possible, breastfeeding should be continued. Mothers should follow other infection prevention measures, such a s washing hands, cleaning surfaces, sneezing or coughing into a tissue. Non-medical masks (e.g. home-made or cloth masks) have not been evaluated. At this time, it is not possible to make a recommendation for or against their use.
Mother has confirmed or suspected Covid-19, is it safe to give baby infant formula milk?
No, there are always risks associated with giving infant formula milk to newborns and infants in all settings. The risks associated with giving infant formula milk are increased whenever home and community conditions are compromised, such as reduced access to health services if a baby becomes unwell, reduced access to clean water and or access to supplies of infant formula milk are difficult or not guaranteed, affordable and sustainable. The numerous benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks of transmission and illness associated with the Covid-19 virus.
Mzukona Mantshontsho is the founder of Nyakaza Media Solutions. Nyakaza Media Solutions is an organisation that was established to help community organisations, business entities, and schools to research, write, document, report, analyse, edit, publish newsletters or bulletins in hard-copy, on-line and maintain websites with the relevant content as per the editorial policy of that organisation, school or entity.
Nyakaza Media Solutions has a vision to promote and bring dialogue to communities, businesses and schools about issues that affect them.
Nyakaza Media Solutions is on a mission to develop and encourage communities, businesses and learners to celebrate the good, applaud excellence, welcome growth, strive to be better individuals, businesses and communities, want more knowledge, discourage bad and counter-productive behaviour as well as communities, businesses and learners that want to be great SOUTH AFRICANS.
Nyakaza Media Solutions is making use of Yo School Magazine as a platform that learners in all schools to make use of to write their stories.