Mothers are unlikely to pass COVID-19 to their newborns if they follow recommended precautions, a small study suggests.
“We hope our study will provide some reassurance to new mothers that the risk of them passing COVID-19 to their babies is very low. However, larger studies are needed to better understand the risks of transmission from mother to child,” said co-leader Dr. Christine Salvatore, a pediatric infectious disease specialist from Weill Cornell Medicine-New York Presbyterian Komansky Children’s Hospital in New York City.
The research included 120 babies born to 116 mothers with COVID-19 infection. The infants, born at three New York hospitals between March 22 and May 17, were allowed to room with their mothers and breastfeed, if moms were well enough.
The babies were in enclosed cribs, 6 feet from their mothers, except during feeding. Moms were required to wear masks while handling their babies and to follow frequent hand- and breast-washing guidelines.
There were no cases of coronavirus transmission to the babies during birth or after two weeks of breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact. At 1 month of age, 53 babies had a virtual checkup and were well and growing normally, according to the study published July 23 in The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health journal.
The findings suggest it’s safe for mothers with COVID-19 to breastfeed and room with their newborn — if they follow infection control procedures, researchers concluded.
Study co-leader Dr. Patricia DeLaMora, another pediatric infectious disease specialist at Weill Cornell, noted that skin-to-skin contact and breastfeeding are important for bonding between mother and child and for the baby’s long-term health.
“Our findings suggest that babies born to mothers with COVID-19 infection can still benefit from these safely, if appropriate infection control measures are followed,” she said in a journal news release.
Dr. Melissa Medvedev, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, wrote an editorial that accompanied the study.
While she said the findings provide valuable safety data, key questions remain unanswered.
“Robust population-based data are needed to quantify the incidence of complications among pregnant women and neonates, and to understand rates and routes of vertical and horizontal transmission, including asymptomatic transmission,” Medvedev wrote. “Studies are also required to determine the effectiveness of infection prevention and control practices in the neonatal care setting.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on pregnancy and COVID-19.