As a breastfeeding mother of a seven-month-old baby knowing that, I tested positive for COVID19 was the most terrifying thing ever. I received a call from public health and was instructed to be present immediately in the hospital for admission and isolation. I was complaining of mild headache, nausea, and throat irritation for a week and was tested only after knowing that my colleague is sick and admitted to the ICU with severe pneumonia.
Then I drove to the hospital worried about my baby girl. That time I was sure my mother will take good care of her but was not sure whether breastfeeding is still an option. She was exclusively breastfed and I have a stash in the freezer but only for two days.
In this situation, I immediately searched online on the world health organization website and found this;
“Considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breast milk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, a mother can continue breastfeeding. The mother should wear a medical mask when she is near her baby and perform hand hygiene before and after having close contact with the baby.
Breastfeeding in Dubai
In situations of severe illness, mothers should be encouraged and supported to express milk, and safely provide breast milk to the infant. Mothers and infants should be enabled to remain together and practice skin-to-skin contact. And to remain together and to practice rooming-in throughout the day and night.”
As soon as I arrived at the hospital I shared this information with my physician who was not sure whether this is applicable as he thinks we know very little about this virus. He then advised me to continue pumping for now and offered me a freezer to store my milk. Two days later my mom called, they ran out of stored breast milk and unfortunately had to start my baby on formula. I still managed to continue pumping as I was recovering and feeling better.
Shortly after , the test was repeated and came out negative and I was allowed to go home and self isolate. But it was advised to continue breastfeeding as long as I practice good hand hygiene and wear a face mask. Today More than 2000 people across the UAE are confirmed to have contracted COVID -19. Every single one of us can make a difference in flattening the epidemic curve.
It was so comforting to see how our society is coming together to fight this pandemic and soon very soon we will have our normal lives back. This experience made me believe that breast milk is a miracle. The antibodies in human milk can protect babies and all mothers should be supported to continue breastfeeding.
I am writing this from my isolation room with my baby next to me , hoping all are keeping safe.