What better day to pen this article while the World Breastfeeding week (1st to 7th August) is being celebrated around the world. Breast milk is the nectar of life and the first "vaccine" a child takes after birth. It's a powerhouse of energy, nutrients, and immunity boosters tailored to perfection by nature to take care of the newborn. "Breastfeeding is one of the most effective way to ensure child health and survival" – WHO
Breastfeeding is to be continued even if the mother is positive for Covid 19 while taking due precautions of masking and sanitization.
Breastfeeding promotes the immune development of the infant by immunological factors and microorganisms transferred from the mother to the infant through breast milk.
Lactoferrin in breast milk is known to increase intestinal immunity and prevent viral anchoring on cell receptors. Cytokines and growth factors in breast milk stimulate the infant’s immune system and balance the anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines, lessening their effect and preventing the dreaded “cytokine storm”.
The most abundant antibody in breast milk, sIgA, protects many organisms. This may explain the low rate of infection or milder symptoms of the infected breastfed infants of Covid infected mothers.
New research from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis shows that nursing mothers who received the COVID-19 vaccine may pass protective antibodies to their babies through breast milk for at least 80 days following vaccination.
Antibodies found in the breast milk of these women showed strong neutralizing effects, suggesting a potential protective effect against infection in the infants.
Exclusively breastfed infants have fewer middle ear infections and a lower risk of respiratory tract infections.
These are just a few out of the numerous benefits of breastfeeding. Remember breast milk by itself is more than nutrition, breast milk is medicine.
(Dr Amin Kaba, Consultant Pediatrician, Masina hospital)