We’ve had an overload of fake news over the past pandemic months. One of the most damaging falsehoods to emerge has been that COVID-19 + moms can transmit the virus through breastmilk to their little ones, and should stop breastfeeding. A spokesperson for ADSA (The Association for Dietetics in South Africa), Andiswa Ngqaka, a registered dietitian says, “There are anecdotes from various countries indicating that this misinformation is causing moms to avoid breastfeeding during the pandemic. While some may see infant formula as a ‘safer alternative’ during this time, this is not the case. Breastmilk is the safest and most nutritious food for babies, and COVID-19 does not change that.”
Lisanne du Plessis, Associate Professor at Stellenbosch University and ADSA spokesperson, gives her top 5 tips for breastfeeding moms during the pandemic:
Mothers should breastfeed on demand, whenever the baby wants to breastfeed, day and night.
Breastfeed exclusively for 6 months. Breastmilk provides all the food and water that babies need during this time. Breastmilk also protects babies against sickness or infection.
Do not give any other food or liquids to babies, not even water, during the first 6 months of life. Even during very hot weather, breastmilk will satisfy babies’ thirst.
Giving babies under 6 months anything other than breastmilk will cause them to suckle less, will reduce the amount of breastmilk that a mother produces and may make babies sick.
Practice hygienic measures to protect moms and babies against COVID-19 and other harmful bacteria and viruses in our environments.
Breastfeeding from birth supports the healthy development of babies and plays an important role in the prevention of all forms of childhood malnutrition including wasting, stunting, obesity, and underweight and micronutrient deficiencies. Breastmilk protects against many infections including COVID-19.
World Breastfeeding Week takes place from Saturday, 1st August to Friday, 7th August. The local 2020 campaign theme is Support breastfeeding for a healthier South Africa. The Department of Health and its partners, including ADSA, appeal to the country to fully support and encourage breastfeeding mothers who are protecting their babies against many infections, including COVID-19. Through breastfeeding on demand, mothers also protect their baby’s vital source of immune-boosting breastmilk and help their babies thrive through close mother-and-child contact.