Nutrition and Breastfeeding in times of pandemic

What changes did the Covid -19 Pandemic bring?

The answer is simple: None.

Although Coronavirus disease is very recent and there is little information which is under constant review, in principle, there is no evidence that Covid-19 involves changes in breastfeeding practices or in the diet of women who are breastfeeding.

Lactation and Covid-19

Breastfeeding protects against disease and death in the post-neonatal period, its protection is particularly strong against infectious diseases by direct transfer of antibodies and other anti-infectious factors. Therefore, in times of a pandemic, the first recommendation is to maintain breastfeeding whenever possible.

Furthermore, breast milk is a complete and optimal source of nutrients for all children and is especially important from a food security perspective.

In all cases, efforts will be made to promote and maintain breastfeeding, considering that the benefits always outweigh the risks.

But ... Are there risks?

So far there is no evidence that Covid-19 is transmitted through breast milk. The active virus (that is, that may cause the infection) has not been detected in the milk of any mother with suspected or confirmed Covid -19. Therefore, it is believed that the disease cannot be transmitted through breastfeeding or through breast milk expressed from a woman considered a suspected or confirmed case.

The risk of transmission would not be through milk as with other respiratory viruses, but through contact through respiratory droplets as inevitably occurs between the mother and her child in the case of a mother infected with Covid-19.

Mother with suspected or confirmed infection

In the case of a mother with suspected or confirmed Coronavirus infection, skin-to-skin contact and the initiation of lactation in the first hour of life are not contraindicated. If you have not been able to start it, it is important to have adequate support for it as soon as possible, since, as mentioned above, the proven benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risk of transmission of the virus through breast milk or breastfeeding.

Symptomatic mothers who are breastfeeding should not suspend or modify breastfeeding practices, but should practice respiratory hygiene at all times, including during feeding the child: wearing face masks, hand hygiene before and after contact with the child, cleaning and routinely disinfecting surfaces with which the symptomatic mother has been in contact.

Do not establish lactation times or duration for this reason, but promote free demand with all infection prevention and control measures.

In the event of a serious illness in a mother with COVID-19, as well as other complications that prevent the care of her baby or prevent her from continuing to breastfeed directly, the expression of milk to administer milked breast should be encouraged and supported, which will be administered safely to the baby.

The milked breast can be safely administered to the infant. For milk expressed from the mother itself, pasteurization or any procedure is not necessary, since the virus has not been detected in it.

Can food be a route of transmission for COVID-19?

The coronavirus is spread mainly from person to person through close contact with an infected person through small droplets produced by sneezing or coughing. Experience in similar virus outbreaks shows that transmission through food consumption does not occur and to date there is no evidence that food is a source or route of transmission for COVID-19.

In any case, it is recommended to apply good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation as usual, that is, wash your hands, cook food completely (especially meat, fish and eggs), avoid possible cross contamination between cooked and raw food, keep food at safe temperatures, use water and safe raw materials.

Other recommended measures are to avoid sharing plates, glasses and cutlery, and wash them with soap and water or detergent after each use.

Are there any foods that help prevent infection?

There are no dietary factors (specific nutrients, foods, or certain eating patterns) that can prevent or decrease the risk of Covid-19 infection in healthy people. Although it is true that certain nutrients contribute to the normal functioning of the immune system, there are no foundations to enhance the consumption of a particular food, beyond its presence in an adequate diet, since there is no evidence that it is associated with a lower risk.

Therefore, the recommendation for lactating women, as well as for the entire population, is to maintain a varied and balanced diet, which contributes to good health.

We highlight to keep in mind:

• Incorporate varied fruits and vegetables in all meals. The more variety, the greater the contribution of vitamins, minerals and bioactive substances that contribute to maintaining a good state of health. Some of these are transmitted through breast milk, and also contribute to its aroma and flavor.

• Base your diet on natural foods and avoid consuming ultra-processed products, which usually provide excess calories, sugar, salt and unhealthy fats. Remember that the fat profile that the mother consumes is similar to the fat profile of her breast milk, therefore, it is important to reduce the consumption of unhealthy fats and include healthy fats. Among the sources of healthy fats are fatty fish (tuna, salmon, palometa, smooth, catfish, mackerel), nuts, raw oils (such as canola, olive, high oleic).

• Maintain good hydration.

Author: Grad. Nut. Lucia Agulla This is a contribution of our Nutrition and Diet Therapy service.

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