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The Case Against Separating Breastfeeding Mothers and Infants During the Pandemic

In a Q&A, Penn Nursing’s Diane Spatz, PhD, Professor of Perinatal Nursing and the Helen M. Shearer Term Professor of Nutrition in the Department of Family and Community Health, discusses why it’s safe and beneficial to keep them together, even when the mother tests positive for COVID-19.

In just three months, the coronavirus pandemic has thrown many facets of life into upheaval. Yet during that time, babies continue to be born. 

Because much is still unknown about COVID-19, families may worry that the virus will harm their child. That’s why to Spatz, based on what we know about the science of human milk, it’s more important than ever to promote breastfeeding. 

“It’s a lifesaving medical intervention,” she says. “When babies are being directly breastfed, they are constantly interacting with their mother. The microbiota stay intact. The mother provides her child antibodies. The milk itself is also filled with all types of components that protect the infant from infectious diseases, such as the coronavirus.” 

For those reasons and many others, nearly every large health care entity, from the World Health Organization (WHO) to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has come out in support of continued breastfeeding, when possible. They also recommend against separating mom and child, even when the mother tests positive for COVID-19. 

In late May, Spatz gave a talk on breastfeeding in the time of COVID. In a follow-up conversation, Penn Today asked her about the breastfeeding guidance, why some hospitals aren’t following it, and how to keep all parties involved safe. 

This is an excerpt from a story that was originally published on Penn Today. It was written by Science News Officer Michele Berger with photography by Eric Sucar. Click here to read the entire version.