Is breastfeeding okay during pandemic? University of Regina professor provides clarity

An associate professor at the University of Regina is helping to debunk myths and misconceptions surrounding breastfeeding during the coronavirus pandemic. Dann Tardif / LWA

Breastfeeding can be stressful enough for new mothers.  Adding a pandemic can make it that much more challenging.

That’s why an associate professor at the University of Regina is sharing her insights on the topic.

Dr. Shela Hirani is an associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing as well as a child health-care professional, researcher and lactation consultant.

She recently received $10,000 in funding through the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation’s special project grant, matched by the university and put together a video titled Breastfeeding during COVID-19: An Information Guide.

Dr. Shela Hirani is an associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Regina.
Dr. Shela Hirani is an associate professor in the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Regina. Courtesy / University of Regina

The video clears up some common myths and misconceptions when it comes to breastfeeding during the coronavirus pandemic, including whether or not it is safe to breastfeed if you have tested positive for the virus.

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READ MORE: Lack of breastfeeding costs global economy nearly $1B every day: researchers

“You can definitely still breastfeed with COVID-19 as long you’re coughing on yourself and washing that area or wearing a mask to prevent getting those germs on the baby,” Hirani said.

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“When the mother herself is positive for COVID-19, the breast milk is going to have antibodies that have the same kind of strength as that of a vaccine. That’s something, again, that’s an immunity booster.”

For the project, Hirani conducted evidence-based literature reviews from the likes of the World Health Organization, World Bank, UNICEF, Public Health Canada, Saskatchewan Health Authority and Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.

She determined the most up-to-date information regarding breastfeeding practices.

READ MORE: How a same-sex couple can both breastfeed twins

The video includes information on the best ways to wash your hands and offers more ways on how to protect yourself and the baby. It also includes how-to advice for making cheap disposable masks.

Hirani also touches on the challenges social distancing is having on mothers, leaving them without the same level of support prior to the pandemic in terms resources.

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“Many of the mothers these days…are not able to attend health-care facilities or lactation counselling facilities,” Hirani said.

“For those mothers, there needs to be an avenue to provide them the required information, that is easy to understand in a plain language and scientifically proven.”

She also said it’s important for mothers to have a strong support team around them to help them take care of their mental health, not just when it comes to breastfeeding, but in general.

“This is very, very important. A healthy mother means healthy children, a healthy family, a healthy community and a healthy nation,” Hirani said.

READ MORE: Sharing breast milk: Should you ever nurse someone else’s baby?

“Mothers need to take care of their own mental health, during this difficult time.”

Hirani said U of R’s Faculty of Nursing is already planning to use the video as part of its child health and public courses for the 2020 spring and summer semester. She will also be sending the video to other nursing faculties at other universities to use.

“Dr. Hirani was able to identify an issue of importance during the COVID-19 pandemic and translate it into a strong proposal, receiving the funding a very short time later,” said Dr. Robin Evans, interim dean and associate professor, Faculty of Nursing.

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“The Faculty of Nursing is proud of her work on this project that is providing much needed information and support to an important segment of the population.”

Hirani also created a Facebook Page called Breastfeeding during COVID-19 which provides updated information.

Click to play video: 'The benefits of breastfeeding' The benefits of breastfeeding
The benefits of breastfeeding – Aug 5, 2018

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

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For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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