Breastfeeding mothers do not seem to be passing on the new coronavirus to their infants, and based on current evidence the benefits outweigh any potential risks of transmission, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that it had carefully investigated the risks of women transmitting Covid-19 to their babies during breastfeeding.
“We know that children are at relatively low risk of Covid-19, but are at high risk of numerous other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents,” Tedros told a news conference.
“Based on the available evidence, WHO’s advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of Covid-19,” he said.
Anshu Banerjee, a senior advisor in WHO’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research, said that only “fragments” of the virus had been detected in breast milk, not live virus.
“So far we have not been able to detect live virus in breast milk,” he said. “So the risk of transmission from mother to child so far has not been established.”
WHO chief also said that vigilance was required worldwide against the “very dangerous virus” even in regions where it appeared to be on the wane.
“Our fear is although it is declining in Europe it is increasing in other parts of the world. Even Europe cannot be safe because the virus can be reintroduced to Europe,” he said.
Tedros was also firm on the need for any vaccines had to be shared fairly between countries, amid concerns some could hoard any drugs they develop.
Vaccines should be made available as a global public good, to ensure everyone had fair access to any life-saving products that are developed, Tedros said.