San Antonio hospital allows breastfeeding for COVID-19 positive mothers

COVID-19 does not stop mothers from breastfeeding at University Hospital

SAN ANTONIO – Lactation specialists note that after a brief period of uncertainty about whether COVID-19 could be passed from mother to child while breastfeeding, new research is coming to light, proving it is safer than once thought.

A study in The Lancet medical publication looked at 120 babies born to women who tested positive and were breastfed and handled with surgical masks and other virus containment procedures. None of the infants tested at 5-7 days, and then again at 14 days, contracted COVID-19.

University Hospital in San Antonio is one of the hospitals taking note and allowing newborn babies to have full contact with their moms so that they can enjoy skin-to-skin contact and breastfeed.

The change came after it was learned that an estimated 30% of pregnant moms in New York tested positive for the novel coronavirus, most without any symptoms at all.

“Why? It is a mystery. I don’t know. But we’re certainly seeing it,” said Kate McLachlan, a lactation Specialist for University Health System. She was quick to note; however, “COVID-19 positive mothers whose babies then also tested positive was only like 2% to 5% of the babies. And again, they’re not even sure how that transmission occurred.”

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The lack of substantial transmission evidence is one reason why the World Health Organization and the American Academy of Pediatrics are now urging even infected mothers to breastfeed their babies.

University Hospital is embracing the practice for many reasons and has removed roadblocks that would separate newborns from their mothers.

“Even for moms whose babies go up to the NICU, we’re encouraging them. We provide them with a hospital grade breast pump and encourage them to pump their milk to be able to still provide breast milk to the baby,” McLachlan said.

She noted that the documented benefits of breast milk have even created a new trend. Fear of the coronavirus pandemic and potential shortages of baby formula during the economic shutdown are believed to have sparked a resurgence in the value of feeding breast milk, even for those whose children were weaned.

“Women who maybe have a baby that’s a little bit older or even a toddler who had been breastfeeding, who was no longer breastfeeding -- there’s many moms seeking assistance with getting their bodies to re-lactate again,” McLachlan said.

She said some experts have techniques for reactivating milk ducts. They include frequent pumping, herbal supplements and enhanced skin-to-skin contact with the child.

Even though new moms at University Hospital stay in their room, it should be noted that the same standard coronavirus containment rules apply. Infected mothers thoroughly wash their hands and skin, wear masks and practice social distancing from their baby when they are not feeding or practicing skin-to-skin contact.

For more about the World Health Organization’s new breastfeeding guidelines, click here.

About the Author:

Ursula Pari has been a staple of television news in Texas at KSAT 12 News since 1996 and a veteran of broadcast journalism for more than 30 years.