Breastfeeding is the cornerstone of infant and young child survival, nutrition and development and maternal health. The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, followed by continued breastfeeding with appropriate complementary foods for up to 2 years and beyond. Early and uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact, rooming-in and kangaroo mother care also significantly improve neonatal survival and reduce morbidity and are recommended by WHO.
However, concerns have been raised about whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the SARS-CoV-2 virus to their infant or young child through breastfeeding. Recommendations on mother-infant contact and breastfeeding must be based on a full consideration of not only of the potential risks of COVID-19 infection of the infant, but also the risks of morbidity and mortality associated with not breastfeeding, the inappropriate use of infant formula milks, as well as the protective effects of skin-to-skin contact. This scientific brief examines the evidence to date on the risks of transmission of COVID-19 from an infected mother to her baby through breastfeeding as well as evidence on the risks to child health from not breastfeeding.