Neonatologists stress the importance of breastfeeding even in times of Covid-19. New mothers have the opportunity to have virtual consultations
For the newborn, it is the best food. In addition to the nutritional aspects of breast milk, then, the possibility of breastfeeding becomes a way of further tightening the physical and psychological bond between mother and child. For this reason, even in times of Covid-19, neonatologists recall the importance of breastfeeding, recalling how remote communication technologies can help in this sense and how much the "donation" of milk can be of great help. .
Information and "teleconsultation"
The message that comes from the Italian Society of Neonatalogy (SIN) on the occasion of the World Week for Breastfeeding which is celebrated every year from 1 to 7 October is clear: the fear of Covid-19 must not stop this practice. Mothers must be properly informed and the ability to connect remotely with experts should be exploited to the fullest, in what is called “Virtual Breastfeeding Support”.
It is a kind of virtual breastfeeding consultancy and is a real-time session, during an individualized appointment, during which the consultant, at their office, and the mother / family, at their home, they see and talk using computers, smartphones or tablets. As if physically present, the consultant is able to assess the position, attack, rhythm of breastfeeding, suggest new positions or correct existing ones, offer support and reassure about the good progress of breastfeeding, diagnose traffic jams or blocked ducts, indicate solutions.
Videoconferencing is an economical, effective solution able to reach all mothers, especially those with low and / or medium-low profitability. Applied to specific public health programs, tele-lactation could guarantee accessibility to correct information, competent support, effective advice, or rather constitute an IT tool for social inclusion and the reduction of inequalities.
"The fear of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures taken to counter the spread of the virus have had a strong psychophysical impact on mothers and practices related to birth, especially breastfeeding – explains the President of SIN Fabio Mosca . Although we neonatologists, with the help of all operators, have tried to reassure the new parents with activities aimed at ensuring the safety of the birth path and with clear and correct information, also thanks to the support of the media, we have found a significant decrease in progress made in recent years in breastfeeding. "
What has happened in recent months
The Breastfeeding Commission of the SIN explored the situation of breastfeeding at the time of Covid-19, conducting a survey on 10 Italian hospitals in July 2020. From the research it emerged that, while the encouragement to breastfeed remains strong and almost unanimous, the choices to isolate the woman in labor-delivery and in the puerperium and the reduction of skin to skin, can constitute important impediments to a correct and physiological initiation of lactation.
For this reason, a document was created with the aim of offering shared indications to prevent and deal with possible cases of mother-infant contagion and to support breastfeeding, with the desire to protect the mother-infant relationship, combining it with a correct sanitation approach.
In particular, the importance of encouraging breastfeeding was reiterated even in the case of Covid-19 positive asymptomatic or paucisymptomatic mothers, recommending the use of raw squeezed breast milk if the newborn was unable to latch on to the breast, due to incompatible clinics of the mother and / or infant.
From the analysis of the data of the SIN COVID-19 National Registry, a commitment by Italian Neonatologists to favor breastfeeding emerged: 77.6% of newborns born to mothers who are positive at childbirth or in the immediate post-partum period were fed exclusively with breast milk (67.2% at the breast and 10.4% with expressed breast milk), and more than half, 66.5%, was isolated together with the mother (rooming-in), a practice that favors, together with skin-to-skin contact , the initiation of breastfeeding.
The Covid-19 epidemic also had consequences on the donation of breast milk and on the activity of the Donated Human Milk Banks (BLUD). Donations have decreased significantly in recent months and the volume of milk collected during this period has significantly decreased, due to the fear of mothers to go to the hospital. In these moments of great uncertainty, some doubts have also emerged about the safety of donated milk. "The donation of breast milk, essential for infants who cannot be breastfed and in particular for preterm births, is a safe practice, even in the era of Covid-19 – concludes Mosca. The entire process is in fact subjected to scrupulous control procedures, carried out on both donors and donated milk. We trust in the generosity of Italian mothers who are already resuming donating their milk. "