A LIVING NUTRIENT: BREAST MILK AND COVID-19
Infant nutrition, a key area of medicine, has been the focus of many serious and comprehensive studies which led to decisive conclusions, based on long-term monitoring of infants fed cow’s milk or an infant formula vs those breastfed.
COMPARED TO BREASTFED INFANTS, INFANTS FED INFANT FORMULAS ARE AT HIGHER RISK FOR:
• Heart disease
• Diabetes mellitus
• Sudden infant death
• Middle ear infection
• Severe diarrhea and chronic diarrhea
• Psychiatric disease
• Maternal estrangement
• Chronic bowel inflammation (Crohn’s Disease)
• Celiac disease.
• They have a shorter life expectancy, due to their becoming ill frequently and being at high risk for chronic disease.
• Their intelligence quotient (IQ) is lower.
• Economic studies have found that they earn a lower income in their future careers.
COMPARED TO A BREASTFEEDING MOTHER, A NON-BREASTFEEDING MOTHER IS AT HIGHER RISK FOR:
• conception while caring for her newborn
• breast cancer
• ovarian cancer
Breast milk is produced by every mother specifically for her baby, differently for every meal. Its formula varies depending on whether the infant is low weight, or immature. How the infant sucks the breast milk at one meal sets up the composition of milk for the next meal. Despite the advanced in technology, it remains impossible to mimic the unique nature and composition of breast milk with any formula or other nutrient. This is because the milk is customized for the baby. Mimicking breast milk would only be possible if a formula can be produced individually for every infant for each meal in a composition equal to the breast milk. This remains an IMPOSSIBLE venture.
Inability to give or receive breast milk is a disease. Breast milk also works like an antibiotic. Studies have shown that 99.9% OF MOTHERS PRODUCE ENOUGH MILK TO FEED TWO INFANTS. There can be three reasons for the inability to give or receive breast milk: the mother is ill, the infant is ill, or the breastfeeding technique is flawed. There can be no other reason, and excuses of allegedly having insufficient or poor quality of milk have no scientific basis. If using an infant formula becomes necessary, it is imperative that a pediatrician is consulted and every effort must be made to establish the root cause of the problem and return to breastfeeding, until which point infant formulas can be used. Using an infant formula may only be indicated in infants with a daily weight gain of less than 20 grams and urinating less than 4 times a day, and even then on a temporary basis and under close physician oversight to identify and solve the underlying problem. Using an infant formula is unnecessary in all other cases. All infants, whether born on time or immaturely, must exclusively receive breast milk for the first 6 months, except as prescribed otherwise by a pediatrician.
Newborns are particularly at risk in serious and widespread outbreak conditions, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Breast milk contains antibodies against respiratory tract infections and provides various immunologic benefits, including supporting the immune system and enveloping and protecting the intestinal flora.
A LIMITED NUMBER OF STUDIES CONDUCTED IN WOMEN WITH COVID-19 OR OTHER CORONAVIRUS INFECTION (E.G. SEVERE ACUTE RESPIRATORY SYNDROME, SARS-COV) HAVE FOUND NO VIRUS IN THE WOMEN’S BREAST MILK. IN A RECENT STUDY CONDUCTED IN WUHAN, CHINA, BREAST MILK SAMPLES WERE COLLECTED FROM SIX PATIENTS WITH A HISTORY OF COVID-19 INFECTION AT INITIAL BREASTFEEDING. ALL SAMPLES TESTED NEGATIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS. ACCORDING TO THE CURRENT WHO GUIDELINE, WOMEN WITH COVID-19 INFECTION MAY BREASTFEED THEIR INFANTS, PROVIDED THEY TAKE THE FOLLOWING PRECAUTIONS: 1. WEAR A MASK THAT COVERS NOSE AND MOUTH WHILE BREASTFEEDING AND ENSURE RESPIRATORY HYGIENE. 2. WASH HANDS WITH SOAP AND WATERS FOR AT LEAST 20 SECONDS BEFORE AND AFTER TOUCHING THE INFANT. 3. REGULARLY CLEAN AND DISINFECT ANY SURFACED TOUCHED. IF THE MOTHER FALLS TOO ILL WITH COVID-19 TO BREASTFEED, SHE SHOULD SEEK SUPPORT TO SAFELY FEED HER INFANT WITH BREAST MILK, BY HARVESTING BREAST MILK, RE-BREASTFEEDING (RESUMING BREAST FEEDING AFTER A PAUSE PERIOD), OR USE BREAST MILK DONATED TO RELIABLE BREAST MILK BANKS.
Breast milk saves the lives of millions of children every year, as it is the only nutrient that can remain uncontaminated during extraordinary circumstances such as war and natural calamities. Breast milk is a living nutrient; it is not fixed nor constant. It contains a complete diet of nutrients needed for organ, weight/height and intellectual development of the infant. “Epidermal growth factor” which speeds up growth occurs in very high concentrations in breast milk. It is non-allergic and economic, such that hiring a private breastfeeding nurse would cost less than the total amount you would have to spend on infant formulas for the first 6 months. It ensures the formation of a psychological bond between the mother and infant, and drives the feeling of motherhood and “having a mother.” Protein content of breast milk is of a higher quality than that in cow’s milk or infant formulas, and less straining on kidneys. Essential proteins that are crucial for intellectual development occur only in breast milk, and are produced specifically for that baby. Breast milk coats intestines from the first time, forming a protective shield for the infant and a more conducive environment for intestinal absorption of iron, protecting against diarrhea. Breast milk contains the enzyme lactase, which helps digest lactose and protects the infant from bloating pain. Lactose increases absorption of calcium needed for bones and drives the growth of benign bacteria in the intestines. It also reduces the risk of developing allergies in the future. Breast milk contains the enzyme lipase, which helps digest fats. It plays an important role in digesting or absorbing fats particularly in premature infants with an undeveloped digestive system. Lipase contained in breast milk also protects against parasitic disease. Fats are the main source of energy for newborns. They provide the essential fatty acids which are needed for brain development. Unsaturated fatty acids, needed for retinal functions, are available in high amounts in breast milk. Fats enter the cellular membrane structure and carry certain vitamins and hormones from the breast milk. The level of fat is low in the mornings, and increases later in the day. At the end of lactation, fat rate reach the saturation level, which allows the infant to be weaned without a risk of being overweight. The same sensation of satiation cannot be generated by fabricated products such as infant formulas, driving the risk of obesity. The renal burden of minerals in breast milk is lower than that of infant formulas or cow’s milk of same grade. While iron content of breast milk is lower, it has very high effectiveness and absorption which provides a greater benefit without causing as much burden. Breast milk is low in salt. The vitamin D content of breast milk is insufficient for infants, and therefore infants must be supplemented with vitamin D until the age of 1 year. Iron content of breast milk becomes insufficient after 4 months for infants born on time, and after 2 months for premature infants; supplementation is essential. Care must be taken to ensure that iron and vitamin D supplements recommended by primary care professionals are used as prescribed.
Infants born by cesarean start the life at a disadvantage. Their immune system is particularly weaker, but if they are breastfed they can make up for this deficiency by the second month. Cesarean does not preclude breastfeeding. Mothers who had cesarean should breastfeed like any other. Many infants are deprived of breast milk due to difficulties of the first week, which is quite unfortunate. Cesarean should be only used when medically indicated, and mothers should do away with the idea of “not breastfeeding.” In particular, the colostrum (golden milk) must be given to the baby. After cesarean, breastfeeding problems in the first week due to the colostrum being viscous and mammary ducts being not yet ready can be easily overcome. Just ask a breastfeeding nurse or pediatrician for help. Be sure to tell them “you want to breastfeed and are ready for it.”
Breast milk is life.