Advocacy Breastfeeding Health and Safety

Groups Honor Mothers, Promote Breastfeeding in the Time of Coronavirus

Photo courtesy of Arugaan/Facebook

Breastfeeding in the time of novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is all-important and should be protected, promoted and supported now more than ever, reminded two civil society groups.

In time for the celebration of Mother’s Day tomorrow, Arugaan (a support group for women with infants and young children) and the EcoWaste Coalition (an advocacy group for zero waste and toxics-free society) honored all mothers for feeding their children with breastmilk, the best and most ecological food for babies, while pushing for breastfeeding during the public health emergency.

In the context of COVID-19, both groups joined the Department of Health (DOH), World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in promoting breastfeeding amid the pandemic while applying all the required precautions.

“We pay tribute to all mothers for practising exclusive breastfeeding for six months and for continuing to breastfeed, with complementary foods, for two years and beyond.  Especially during the COVID-19 outbreak, mothers are advised to sustain breastfeeding, while ensuring proper hygiene during feeding,” said Ines Fernandez, Executive Director, Arugaan, who also noted that “colostrum, the first milk that mothers produce after birth and which is at its height of production during the first 15 days, is very rich in nutrients and antibodies to fight disease-causing bacteria and viruses.”

As pointed out by WHO: “The COVID-19 virus has not been found in breastmilk.  Transmission of COVID-19 through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date.  There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding.”

“Breastfeeding is zero waste practice at its best.  It requires no plastic, paper or tin packaging, and no plastic bottles and teats, too.  Unlike infant formula, breast milk is waste-free, wasting no raw materials to produce and generating no waste in the process,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

In normal times and bad, such as during the COVID-19 contagion, breastfeeding should be all the more protected, promoted and supported in line with the Philippine Milk Code of 1986, the Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act of 1992, the Expanded Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2009, and the more recent Kalusugan at Nutrisyon ng Mag-Nanay Act of 2018, insisted Arugaan and the EcoWaste Coalition.

According to UNICEF, “if a child becomes sick with symptoms of fever, cough, difficulty breathing that are typical of coronavirus or another type of illness such as diarrhoea, it is very important to seek medical care early, and follow instructions from a health care provider.”

The agency has advised mothers to breastfeed more frequently during the COVID-19 outbreak as “babies and young children need breast milk to help fight sickness, prevent weight loss, and recover more quickly.”

To keep babies healthy and safe during the pandemic, Arugaan and the EcoWaste Coalition reiterated these breastfeeding tips from UNICEF:

“1. Continue to breastfeed while taking care with hygiene, including the 3Ws:  Wear a mask during feeding.  Wash hands with soap before and after touching the baby.  Wipe and disinfect surfaces regularly.”

“2. Take additional hygiene measures and continue to breastfeed if you fall sick.”

“3. Use a cup and spoon to feed babies with expressed breastmilk when too sick to breastfeed.”

“The main risk for a baby is catching the virus from close contact with the mother or another infected member of the family. If anyone is sick in the household, take extra care to protect your baby by practising the 3Ws,” UNICEF said.

According to UNICEF, “mothers who get coronavirus shortly before giving birth and begin breastfeeding, and those who become infected while breastfeeding, will produce immune factors (antibodies) in their milk to protect their baby and enhance the baby’s own immune responses.”

“This means that continuing to breastfeed is the best way to fight the virus and protect your baby,” said UNICEF.