COVID-19: Positive mothers should continue kangaroo care with proper hygiene, says expert

A vaccinated person without any high-risk factor for infection should take care of the infant six feet from the mother when not in contact with her, the northeast’s only doctor of medicine for neonatology said

A COVID-19 positive mother should continue with kangaroo care with proper hygienic practices and preferably let vaccinated persons take care of the infant six feet away when not breastfeeding or in contact with her, the only doctor of medicine for neonatology in the northeast has said.

Kangaroo mother care (KMC), initially developed in Colombia, is a method of care practised on babies, usually on a pre-term infant, where the infant is held skin-to-skin with his or her mother, father, or substitute caregiver.

“There are no special precautions for the babies born of COVID-19 positive mothers. If there is no provision for separate delivery room for such a mother, her bed should be separated from the rest of the delivery beds. All life-saving birth practices like skin-to-skin care, delayed cord clamping, early breastfeeding, and KMC should be continued with proper hygienic practices,” Reeta Bora said in an interaction facilitated by the Assam centre of the UNICEF.

Professor of paediatrics and neonatology at Assam’s Lakhimpur Medical College, Dr. Bora is a member of the Indian Academy of Paediatrics’ National Neonatology Forum.

Hygienic practices

She said COVID-19 affected mothers could directly breastfeed their new-borns and infants provided they maintained the hygienic practices such as periodic handwashing, wearing of masks while feeding, keeping the infant at a distance of six feet distance while someone who was unaffected took care of the baby, preferably vaccinated and without any high-risk factor for infection.

Dr. Bora allayed fears about the effect of vaccination in pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, pointing out there was no global scientific evidence to presume it was harmful.

“The vaccines currently in use have proved to be safe for pregnant and lactating mothers. The Federation of Obstetrics and Gynaecological Societies of India has recently advocated vaccination in pregnant women and lactating mothers,” she said.

But the Indian government does not encourage vaccination in pregnant and lactating mothers. “We are awaiting the revised guidelines from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare,” she said.

Children’s immunity

On the issue of boosting the immunity of children, Dr. Bora said nutritional programmes such as midday meal in school became all the more important for children of marginalised communities. “Parents should be made aware about needs of the child in such communities so that they try to meet the child’s need with affordable and easily available food at home,” she said while pointing out there was no evidence to say that certain vitamins and minerals could lower the risk of COVID-19 infection.

“But we know that vitamin C, zinc, protein, etc., are important for our body for the maintenance of immunity in general,” she added.

The onus, Dr. Bora said, was on adults to ensure the children had a sanitised surrounding and maintain a balanced diet to be safe from the ‘Indian variant’ of SARS-Cov-2. Government data say there were 79,688 paediatric positive cases in the five most affected States between March 1 and April 10.

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