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Breastfeeding still ideal inspite of Pandemic

10th Aug, 2020

World Breastfeeding Week was hosted from 1-7 August, 2020, this year with the theme “Support breastfeeding for a Healthier Planet”.

To mark the occasion, PAHO/WHO Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean Countries hosted a webinar entitled Scaling up the Protection, Promotion and Support to Breastfeeding during COVID-19, on 5 August 2020.

Dr. Audrey Morris PAHO/WHO Regional Advisor on Food and Nutrition spoke on the topic ‘Breastfeeding Benefits and COVID- 19’. She reiterated that even if a mother has contracted COVID-19, she can feed according to standard infant feeding guidelines. “Antibodies and bio-active factors in breast milk may fight against COVID-19 infection (and) no active virus has been found in breast milk to date.”

Webinar attendees heard: “For infection prevention and control measures, the mother should use a medical mask, practice hand hygiene and disinfect surfaces.” Dr. Morris advised further: “if the mother is unable to directly breastfeed she can express milk and feed to her baby”.

Dr. Morris cautioned against separating mother and infant, instructing mothers to practice skin-to-skin contact or kangaroo mother care.

Irma Chavarría de Maza, Representative for Latin American and the Caribbean Region on the Steering Committee of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action, explained the linkages between breastfeeding and planetary health.

“The manufacturing, packaging, distribution and preparation processes of Breast Milk Substitutes requires energy and water. All of this impacts the environment and feeding one million babies with infant formula for two years requires approximately 150 million cans,” said de Maza.

“Not breastfeeding is associated with lower intelligence and results in economic losses of about $302 billion annually.”

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) in Grenada and inter-sectoral support for promoting breastfeeding at the community level in St. Kitts, were initiatives highlighted as supporting the breastfeeding movement.

In Grenada, the hospital was awarded BFHI certification and among the accomplishments was an increase in exclusive breastfeeding rates. Over in St. Kitts, the Ministry of Health is working toward the BFHI designation for its hospitals and is strengthening the support to mothers, after discharge, to continue breastfeeding.