As part of World Breastfeeding Week, running from Sunday 1 to Saturday 7 August, Oxford University Hospitals are launching a campaign to reassure breastfeeding women they can continue to breastfeed if they get COVID-19.
With the number of COVID-19 infections rising, in particular among people in their thirties, the OUH Infant Feeding Team and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group released this video to inform breastfeeding mums they can continue with breastfeeding if they test positive for the virus.
Alex Mulford, OUH Infant Feeding Lead, said: "World Breastfeeding Week is a great opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of breastfeeding for both mothers and their babies.
"While we urge breastfeeding mothers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as a first step to protect themselves and their babies, we advise them not to stop breastfeeding, should they get COVID-19. If a mother has to come into hospital, we will support them to either continue feeding or start expressing depending on their circumstances.
"We know how worried parents can be about passing the virus onto their children and close contact is a risk factor as transmission is by airborne droplets which is why we advise on how to avoid this.
"However, breastfeeding's role with regard to bonding and the baby’s health outweigh the potential risks of passing on the virus, as breastmilk boosts a baby's immune system. So, with good respiratory hygiene, which includes wearing a medical mask and good hand hygiene, it is possible to continue breastfeeding."
Supporting breastfeeding has been a key priority for OUH in recent years, as the Trust has committed to achieving full UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation across the Women's and Children's departments. The Trust is getting closer to the goal as the Newborn Care Unit have just been awarded Stage 3, which is the full accreditation.
Gillian Denton, Neonatal Feeding Lead at OUH, said: "We are very proud to be the first level 3 (intensive care) Newborn Care Unit in the Thames Valley and Wessex network to be awarded the full UNICEF Baby Friendly Accreditation.
"There could not have been a better time than World Breastfeeding Week to celebrate this achievement. There is a need for a joint effort to raise awareness about the importance of breastfeeding to protect babies against a wide range of serious illnesses as well as reducing the mother's risk of postnatal depression, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, and some cancers."
Maternity, including the four standalone midwifery led units (Wantage, Wallingford, Chipping Norton, and Banbury), as well as the Spires, achieved the Stage 2 UNICEF Baby Friendly accreditation three years ago and are expected to be awarded the Stage 3 by the end of 2021.
Across Oxfordshire a number of organisations are already fully accredited UNICEF Baby Friendly. These include Oxford Brookes University, which trains midwives, and the Health Visiting Service provided by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust.