In July 2020, a prospective study was published using neonatal units participating in the SIBEN network in Latin America and Equatorial Guinea (Augusto Sola et al., 2020). We studied data from reports for the period from March 6 to May 30, 2020, compiled for 86 pregnant women with a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19. At the same time, 59 women (68%) had no symptoms, 24 had mild or moderate symptoms, and only 3 women had severe respiratory symptoms. Only 6 women were admitted to intensive care, two received mechanical ventilation.
For the analysis of feeding and the relationship between mother and child, 2 deceased newborns and 6 mothers who were admitted to intensive care were excluded.
As a result, of 78 mothers with COVID-19, only 24% were allowed to maintain direct breastfeeding with protective measures, 13% were able to feed their babies with expressed milk, and the rest of the children received formula. During hospitalization, in 76% of cases, the newborn was not allowed to stay with the mother. In these newborns, the mother did not feed the baby directly; expressed breast milk or formula was given by nursing staff.
The study authors express their concern about low breastfeeding rates and frequent separation of the mother-child dyad. In accordance with current guidelines, the decision to temporarily separate a mother from COVID-19 and her newborn baby should be made on an individual basis based on general guidelines. This is probably too often a decision not in favor of breastfeeding. At the same time, prevention of breastfeeding and separation of the mother from her newborn can have very negative long-term consequences for the perinatal well-being and future lives of individuals.
It is noted that every mother has the right to be near her newborn and breastfeed. In this situation, it is recommended to use stringent measures to reduce the risk of infection, such as physical barriers (distance), hand and breast hygiene before and after each feed, and the use of a mask. Fortunately, health facilities, which reported data on 86 pregnant women with COVID-19 and their newborns, have begun to take a more loyal approach to sharing and breastfeeding over time. As of May 11, breastfeeding rates have increased significantly and the disruption in communication between a mother with COVID-19 and their children has decreased.