In some reassuring news on the coronavirus front, a new study finds that pregnant women with COVID-19 rarely infect their newborn.
That finding suggests that it may not be necessary to separate infected mothers from their infants and that moms can continue to breastfeed, the researchers added.
“Our findings should reassure expectant mothers with COVID-19 that basic infection-control measures during and after childbirth, such as wearing a mask and engaging in breast and hand hygiene when holding or breastfeeding a baby, protected newborns from infection in this series,” said researcher Dr. Cynthia Gyamfi-Bannerman. She’s a professor of women’s health in obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, in New York City.
For the study, the team looked at 101 newborns born to COVID-19-positive mothers from March 13 to April 24, 2020.
Hospital personnel maintained basic precautions to prevent infection and kept infants in protective cribs six-feet away from the mothers’ beds. Direct breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact with babies, however, was encouraged, as long as moms wore masks and washed hands and breasts with soap and water.
“During the pandemic, we continued to do what we normally do to promote bonding and development in healthy newborns, while taking a few extra precautions to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus,” Gyamfi-Bannerman said.
Among the infants, only two tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and they had no symptoms. The researchers couldn’t be sure how the babies became infected.
Several groups have recommended that babies of COVID-19-infected mothers should be separated from their mothers, the study authors noted in a university news release.
“These recommendations were made in the absence of data on rates of mother-to-newborn SARS-CoV-2 transmission and are based on experience with mother-newborn transmission of other infectious diseases,” explained researcher Dr. Dani Dumitriu, an assistant professor of pediatrics in psychiatry at Columbia.
“But some of the recommendations conflict with what we know about the developmental benefits of early breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact,” Dumitriu added. “Our study shows that these measures may not be necessary for healthy newborns with COVID-positive moms.”
The findings were published online Oct. 12 in JAMA Pediatrics.
For more on breastfeeding, head to the American Academy of Family Physicians.