THE World Health Organisation (WHO) says the risk of COVID-19 infection through breastfeeding is negligible and has never been documented.
Head of the organisation’s Food and Nutrition Action in Health Systems unit, Dr Laurence Grummer-Strawn, stated this on Tuesday, according to the United Nations.
In a report, the UN quoted Grummer-Strawn as making the statement at a news briefing on the 2020 World Breastfeeding Week where he appealed for greater support for the practice.
This year’s event is coming amid warning by WHO that lack of mother’s milk is linked to 820,000 child deaths a year, costing the global economy US$300 billion (N114 trillion).
“WHO has been very clear in its recommendations to say absolute breastfeeding should continue.
“We have never documented, anywhere around the world, any (COVID-19) transmission through breastmilk,” Grummer-Strawn said.
He said exclusive breastfeeding for six months has many benefits for the infant and mother, which far outweigh any risk from the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that the advantages included the fact that breastmilk, including milk, which is expressed, provides lifesaving antibodies that protect babies against many childhood illnesses.
“This is only one of the reasons new mothers should initiate skin-to-skin contact and room-in with their babies quickly.
“The risks of transmission of the COVID-19 virus from a COVID-positive mother to her baby seem to be extremely low,” WHO official said.
He explained that the conclusion followed the testing of the breastmilk of many mothers around the world in a variety of studies.
Grummer-Strawn said although a few samples had the virus, followup tests showed that the virus was not viable and could not be infective.