The infant formula advertisements have increased since the outbreak of COVID-19. The World Health Organization(WHO) warned that countries failed to stop harmful marketing of breast-milk substitute. Market Watch predicted that the global infant formula market is going to grow due to the COVID-19 impact. Investigative journalists reported on the evidence of this harmful practice of formula marketing.
Pandemic or not, the manufacturers have long been making false claims about the nutrition value of baby formula, and exaggerating the difficulties of breastfeeding. Now with COVID-19, the industry is further using the pandemic to push their products, targeting parents’ fears of infection.
But the truth is: Breastfeeding saves lives! Research shows that infants and children are the most vulnerable during emergencies, including a pandemic. Human milk is always clean and available even in the direst circumstances. It requires no fuel, water, or electricity. There is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breastfeeding, and WHO recommends that all women, including those infected with COVID-19, continue to breastfeed their babies.
As relief and health workers, we have to take action to protect infant and young child feeding in the pandemic. Human milk is not only the perfect nutrition for infants, it also contains antibodies that fight infection and disease. Contaminated water, poor sanitation, and the spread of germs and bacteria are common in a pandemic, and infants and young children are at special risk. The safest, most sanitary food is always the mother’s own milk. Breastfeeding also helps keep infants warm, and lowers stress levels to calm traumatized infants and mothers.
We can encourage mothers to continue breastfeeding, or to restart breastfeeding if they have stopped (see below.) Certified lactation consultants should always be included in an emergency relief team to provide the special assistance and support to help mothers continue breastfeeding.
Keep it in mind that mothers can make plenty of milk, even if they are stressed. We can, of course, help mothers relax in stressful situations. Holding a baby skin-to-skin helps lower stress cortisol levels in both the mother and the baby, and helps a mother’s milk easily flow.
Contact SDCBC for more information about their recent relactation webinar.