Mothers who have Covid-19 infection are unlikely to pass the virus to their newborns if appropriate hygiene precautions are taken, a small study suggests.
The findings, which involved 120 babies and their mothers, suggest that mothers can breastfeed and stay in the same room as their newborns, if they use face coverings and follow infection control procedures.
The research is published in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
Lead author Dr Christine M Salvatore, from the Weill Cornell Medicine-New York Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital, US, said: “Data on the risk of Covid-19 transmission during pregnancy or while breastfeeding are limited to a small number of case studies.
“Consequently, guidelines for pregnant women and new mothers vary.
“We hope our study will provide some reassurance to new mothers that the risk of them passing Covid-19 to their babies is very low.
We know that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are important both for mother-infant bonding and for long-term child health. Our findings suggest that babies born to mothers with Covid-19 infection can still benefit from these safely, if appropriate infection control measures are followedDr Patricia DeLaMora
“However, larger studies are needed to better understand the risks of transmission from mother to child.”
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists in the UK recommends that mothers should share a room with their babies and breastfeed, with appropriate precautions.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) also advocates a similar guidance, emphasising that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the potential risks of coronavirus transmission.
Medics looked at outcomes from 120 babies born to 116 mothers at three hospitals in New York City between March 22 and May 17.
The babies were allowed to share a room with their mothers and breastfeed, while the mothers were required to wear surgical masks and follow frequent hand and breast washing procedures.
If someone who is #breastfeeding 🤱 becomes ill with #COVID19, it is important to continue breastfeeding.— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) March 20, 2020
The baby who has already been exposed to the #coronavirus by the mother and/or family will benefit most from continued direct breastfeedinghttps://t.co/5pYKKfVY39 pic.twitter.com/mkELVBqcpT
All of the babies tested negative for coronavirus within the first 24 hours of birth.
A week later, 79 babies were tested for the virus again and 72 babies received a further test two weeks after birth.
The results were negative for Covid-19 and none of the babies showed symptoms of of the disease at any time, the researchers said.
Dr Patricia DeLaMora, also from the Komansky Children’s Hospital who jointly led the study, said: “We know that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are important both for mother-infant bonding and for long-term child health.
“Our findings suggest that babies born to mothers with Covid-19 infection can still benefit from these safely, if appropriate infection control measures are followed.”
However, the researchers say it is not possible to draw firm conclusions as the sample size in the study is small and larger studies are needed.