Are Breastfed Babies Better Protected Against Coronavirus?

A mother breastfeeding her baby.

A new study shows that breastfed babies may be better protected against the Wuhan coronavirus infection. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

There have been fewer reported instances of children being infected with the Wuhan coronavirus. The infection rate is relatively low, with one study out of Hubei Province, China, showing that of the 44,000 Wuhan coronavirus cases, just 2.2 percent involved children younger than 19 years of age. A new study now shows that breastfed babies may be better protected against the Wuhan coronavirus infection.

Breastfeeding and the Wuhan coronavirus

The mortality rate among females infected with Wuhan coronavirus is lower when compared to men. “The stronger immune response towards the coronavirus pathogens in females is suspected, among other things, to be an evolutionary survival advantage for the offspring who spend more time with their mothers… Babies also get the defenses contained in breast milk and thus have better protection against diseases,” according to Express.

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The presence of higher levels of estrogen and a second X chromosome are believed to be the reasons for lower mortality rates among women. Tests on female mice infected with SARS have found that they die more quickly if their ovaries have been removed and estrogen production disrupted.

Tests on female mice infected with SARS have found that they die more quickly if their ovaries have been removed and estrogen production disrupted.
Tests on female mice infected with SARS have found that they die more quickly if their ovaries have been removed and estrogen production disrupted. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Though it may be possible for pregnant women to transmit the virus to their kids, there is no strong evidence to support this theory. Investigations are currently being conducted on this question. UNICEF recommends that pregnant women immediately seek medical care once they start showing symptoms of Wuhan coronavirus infection. However, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) warns that breastfeeding women should not be separated from their newborn babies.

“There is no evidence that the illness can be transmitted through breastmilk. However, breastfeeding mothers who are infected should wear a mask when near their baby, wash their hands before and after feeding, and disinfect contaminated surfaces. If a mother is too ill to breastfeed, she should be encouraged to express milk for the baby, while taking all necessary precautions,” according to UNFPA.

Coronavirus symptoms are similar to the flu and a cold

Parents are advised to remain alert to detect any signs of infection in their kids. However, do keep in mind that this is flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. The symptoms of coronavirus such as fever and cough are the same as with flu or the common cold. If your child does show these symptoms, do not take them lightly. Get the kid to a doctor immediately.

If your child shows symptoms of cough or fever, take them to the doctor to be checked for coronavirus.
If your child shows symptoms of cough or fever, take them to the doctor to be checked for coronavirus. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Breastfeeding benefits

Breastfeeding is incredibly beneficial for children. Such kids are less likely to be susceptible to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). They also have a stronger antibody response to vaccines when compared to formula-fed babies, which makes vaccines much more effective in them. Since the mother passes immune factors and white blood cells through breast milk, the infant will be protected against diseases like Hodgkin’s lymphoma, spinal meningitis, and type 1 diabetes.

Breast milk can also affect intelligence in kids. “Studies are pointing toward breastfed babies having higher IQ scores later in life, even when taking socioeconomic factors into consideration. The fatty acids in breast milk are thought to be the brain boosters,” according to Parents. The skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding is thought to help the baby feel secure. Such kids also tend to gain the appropriate amount of weight as they grow up.

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