The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has urged mothers to practice exclusive breastfeeding for their new borns even under the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF said breast milk saves babies lives as it provides antibodies that boosts their immunity and protects them against many post-natal diseases. It also urged breast feeding mothers to observe all safety and hygiene precautions to prevent contracting COVID-19.
The call came as UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), in a joint statement, urged governments to find innovative solutions to protect and promote women’s access to breastfeeding counselling, a critical component of breastfeeding support.
While researchers continue to test breast milk from mothers with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, current evidence indicates that it is unlikely the virus would be transmitted through breastfeeding.
“The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, like most emergencies, leaves families with children in an extremely vulnerable position. Given the present lack of evidence that transmission of the virus could occur through breast milk, we recommend that mothers should be encouraged to initiate and continue to breastfeed their babies while observing good hygiene practices,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF’s Representative in Nigeria.
UNICEF and WHO recommend that babies be fed only breastmilk for their first six months, after which they should continue breastfeeding as well as eating other nutritious and safe foods until two years of age or beyond. Currently, only 29 per cent of Nigerian children between the ages of 0 to six months are exclusively breastfed.