Breast-feeding & COVID-19
Breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. However, nearly 2 out of 3 infants are not exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months. This rate has not improved in two decades.
All over the world breastfeeding is known to be the healthiest way to feed an infant, no matter what kind of substitute milk or powdered milk, breastfeeding remains the most effective way for an infant to remain healthy.
It was noticed that breastfeeding can benefit the Child, the mother as well as the society,
In Egypt breastfeeding plays an important role in our lives As the AUC Knowledge fountain indicated that the UNICEF found that breastfeeding helps infant survival and development, as breast milk is full of nutrients, vitamins, antibodies, minerals, and enzymes. So even water is not needed in the first 6 months in the infant’s survival and that’s a very great thing as it protects the infant against the contaminated water and pathogens, nevertheless, breast milk can be easily digested by an infant, the WHO indicated that artificial feeding is used only if the mother or the child is in a critical condition either than that breastfeeding is used for the first 6 months and if the intake of water and food started earlier it may cause serious infectious diseases to the infant.
Breastfeeding became much harder during the COVID-19 pandemic due to skin-to-skin contact to deliver milk. As the WHO counseled the mother that the potential benefit of breastfeeding is much more than the potential risk of transmission.
Based on available evidence, WHO recommendations on the initiation and continued breastfeeding of infants and young children also apply to mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 as the risk of mortality is 14-fold higher in infants who are not breastfed.
It was noted that breastfeeding causes a psychological bond between the mother and her child as well as decreases the risk of anxiety and depression.
It was also noted by the UNICEF. That breastfeeding also benefits the mother as hormones released lower the risk of postpartum depression, hemorrhage, type 2 DM, ovarian cancer, and breast cancer.
So the decrease in breastfeeding can cause a serious public health disaster.
The world health organization indicated that breastfeeding should start within the first hour of birth however in Egypt only 2 infants start breastfeeding at the first hour and 9 in 10 infants starts breastfeeding on the first day and it was also found in Egypt that rural and uneducated mothers start breastfeeding in the first hour however the urban and educated mothers start breastfeeding in the first day with percentage 60% to 53%.
The WHO indicated that children should breastfeed for at least 6 months only breast milk with no additions but unfortunately in Egypt, it was found to be only 29% are breastfeeding extensively. It is always a benefit to breastfeed the babies as the WHO said that children and adolescents who were breastfed are less likely to overweight and have a higher intelligence test.
The WHO insisted on breastfeeding only till the age of 6 months but unfortunately in Egypt after only 2 months they give supplements to the infants which increases the risk of infection.
In Egypt, it was found that only one-third of the people keep breastfeeding their children for 2 years the majority only stay for 17.7 months.
The sociocultural factors of breastfeeding, As Khasawneh mentioned that “Mother’s breastfeeding in public was significantly related to breastfeeding duration but not exclusivity. Mothers who breastfeed in public are more likely to breastfeed for a longer duration than mothers who did not breastfeed in public. Religion was significantly related to exclusive breastfeeding. Mothers who reported that their religion influenced their feeding choice were more likely to exclusive breastfeed than mothers who indicated religion did not influence their feeding choice”.
To summarize, breastfeeding is the most natural process that mothers were gifted with, it builds up a great bond between the mother and her child, it contains a great advantage as it protects the infant from any infectious diseases from the bottled milk and the pathogens invasions, nevertheless the long-term effect as it reduces the possibility of depression to both the mother and the child. Breastfeeding recommendations by the world health organization are well-established ground rules that every country should be affiliated with them even though COVID-19 pandemic breastfeeding should never stop as its benefit is much more than any risk of any disease transmission.