Neither skin to skin nor breastfeeding carry any risk of contagion between a woman with COVID-19 and her newborn as long as hygienic preventive measures are taken, such as the use of a mask by the mother and frequent washing of hands and breasts.
It is the main conclusion reached by an observational study with 120 babies carried out in New York hospitals. After following mothers and babies for the first two weeks of life, the researchers found no cases of SARS-CoV-2 transmission in pregnancy or afterwards. Therefore, they conclude that it is safe for mothers and newborns to be together after childbirth and that infants are breastfed taking precautions.
The results of this work, which are collected in the journal The Lancet Child Adolescence Health, support the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which advise against separating mothers and children after birth and breastfeeding is promoted for its benefits for both.
“Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding are important for both the mother-child bond and long-term baby health,” says study co-chair Patricia DeLaMora, Komansky Presbyterian Children’s Hospital of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. “Our results suggest that babies born to mothers with COVID can safely benefit from both if the necessary control measures are taken,” he adds.
“Skin-to-skin and breastfeeding are important for both the mother-child bond and the long-term health of the baby”
So far, there are hardly any studies examining what happens during pregnancy when a woman gets COVID, whether or not the infection is transmitted to the fetus, or whether newborns can become infected after delivery and if they pass the disease. In this sense, although this work is small, it sheds some light on these questions.
The researchers followed 120 babies born to 116 women in three New York hospitals between March 22 and May 17, at the height of the pandemic. None of the babies were separated from their mothers and they remained in the hospital room located two meters away, except when they were breastfed or skin-to-skin.
They had a nasal PCR test after 24 hours of delivery and all were negative. After a week of life, 82 babies were still sharing a room with their mothers and 80% were breastfeeding. Fifteen days after birth, 72 newborns were tested and all tested negative. What’s more, they followed 53 babies for a month and none developed Covid symptoms, so the researchers suggest that transmission to newborns by other family members is unlikely when safety precautions are taken.
“The data indicates that perinatal transmission of SARS-CoV-2 is unlikely and that having newborns in the room with their mothers and breastfeeding are safe, with adequate precautions,” says Melissa Medvedev of the University from California San Francisco, in a companion article in the same publication.