Breastfeeding & COVID-19 - In support of happy moms & babies

Despite the impact and risk of the COVID-19 pandemic, UNICEF South Africa is on a mission to encourage and support mothers to breastfeed their babies.

Fundraising team
UNICEF South Africa/2017
10 September 2020

For centuries, the psychological and health benefits of moms breastfeeding their babies has been well-documented. Breastmilk is known as baby’s perfect food, but during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been uncertainty as to whether nursing moms should still breastfeed their infants, especially if they have tested positive for the coronavirus. UNICEF South Africa maintains its vision of child health and protection and the impact on breastfeeding moms during the pandemic.

As a partner of World Breastfeeding Week since its inception, UNICEF South Africa has been a constant advocate for supporting and educating new mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding. 

Best for baby

Breastmilk - containing antibodies that boost immunity, and healthy enzymes - is a natural source of nutrition and protection for babies and helps to promote optimal development and growth. Medical and health professionals have also noted the general correlation between breastfed babies and the reduced instances of ear infections, respiratory illness and bouts of diarrhoea. So, whenever possible, and if a mom is able, breastfeeding should be encouraged. 

As far as benefits for mothers who breastfeed, instances of postnatal depression are less likely, and skin-to-skin contact creates an immediate and healthy sense of bonding.  UNICEF South Africa is committed to on-the-ground initiatives that support postnatal resources in clinics and the training of health workers to promote breastfeeding in under-resourced communities across the country.

UNICEF South Africa/2017

Studies have also indicated that women who breastfeed are less at risk of breast and ovarian cancer later in life. 

Of course, one of the major benefits is the cost - breastfeeding is free, whereas the cost of milk formulas is prohibitive for many women. (Cow’s milk should not be given to a baby under 12 months as it does not  have the right balance of nutrients a baby needs)

Best for baby - during COVID-19

The coronavirus pandemic has seen fear overshadow every aspect of daily life and left moms of infants feeling paranoid and insecure as to how to best care for their babies in these times. As a result of these concerns, breastfeeding has come under the spotlight. 

UNICEF South Africa has been active in sharing information, making sure that mothers in communities across the country have access to the facts regarding the continued benefits of breastfeeding, even if a mother has tested positive for COVID-19. 

The reality is that antibodies in breastmilk are powerful weapons in fighting off viruses and bacteria, and the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the potential risk of transmitting the virus.

© UNICEF/UN0208079/Hearfield

If a mom has tested positive for COVID-19, or suspects she has been been in contact with someone who is positive, the practice of simple hygiene measures should be followed to protect her baby and other family members:

  • Wearing a mask.
  • Washing hands thoroughly before breastfeeding.
  • Coughing or sneezing into a tissue and resanitizing hands.
  • Regularly cleaning and disinfecting surfaces.

If a mom is feeling too ill and weak to breastfeed, she should express the breastmilk into bottles that have been thoroughly disinfected. 

The devastating economic effect of the global pandemic has left many families struggling with unemployment and loss of an income. With help from our supporters, UNICEF South Africa is trying to meet the needs of the vulnerable through various initiatives. Among these is the peer mentor programme, providing life-saving antenatal and postnatal services to pregnant women and young mothers.

UNICEF South Africa

UNICEF South Africa’s frontline responses, child protection goals and crisis initiatives are dependant on public support and financial donations to sustain the needed rollout and to help create a better future for every child. 

COVID-19 continues to create unprecedented demands and pressures on children, families and communities. Our humanitarian duty is one of compassion and action, and we cannot do it without you. 

Will you consider partnering with us in making a sustainable long-term difference in the lives of those who need it most?