There is no real need to separate infants from COVID-19 positive mothers, and the potential negative consequences may be too high. This recommendation was published by a distinguished professor in infant and young child feeding at the University of North Carolina and published as a commentary in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine.
CDC Advise on Separation
The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends health facilities to consider temporarily separating infants from COVID-19 positive mothers until the mothers are no long contagious. The rationale behind this is to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of the COVID-19. In her commentary, Dr. Alison Stuebe, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine note that there is no evidence this separation improves the outcome.
Importance of Skin-to-Skin Contact
According to Stuebe, there are several risks in separating infants from mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19. Skin-to-skin contact between mother and baby is critical for the several hours and days after birth. Depriving both mother and child this contact can have negative consequences. It’s been shown that infants who lack skin-to-skin contact with their mothers tend to have higher heart rates and respiratory rates and lower glucose levels.
Mother’s Milk is Important
Separating the baby from the mother can also induce stress in the mother, making it harder for her to fight off the virus infection. Also, the separation may interfere with the mother’s milk production. The mother’s milk is important for the development of the infant’s immune system. Also, infants who are deprived of breastfeeding from their mothers can have increased risk of severe respiratory infections, which includes pneumonia and COVID-19.
“As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, I am hopeful that we can center mothers and babies and remember to first do no harm,” Stuebe said in her commentary.
Is There a Real Need to Separate Infant and Mother?
Arthur Eidelman , the editor-in-chief of the journal also concurred.
“There is no need or indication to categorically separate infants from COVID-19 suspect or positive mothers other than in circumstances wherein the mother’s medical condition precludes her caring for the infant. Feeding mothers’ own breast milk, either by nursing or by feeding of expressed milk, is OK and desired!” he said.
For pregnant mothers who are suspected or confirmed with COVID-19, full consideration of the risks and benefits must be given when discussing whether to separate the infant from mother after birth.