Mistakes from the HIV pandemic should inform the COVID-19 response for maternal and newborn care

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Background

In an effort to prevent infants being infected with SARS-CoV-2, some governments, professional organisations, and health facilities are instituting policies that isolate newborns from their mothers and otherwise prevent or impede breastfeeding.

Weighing of risks is necessary in policy development

Such policies are risky as was shown in the early response to the HIV pandemic where efforts to prevent mother to child transmission by replacing breastfeeding with infant formula feeding ultimately resulted in more infant deaths. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the risk of maternal SARS-CoV-2 transmission needs to be weighed against the protection skin-to-skin contact, maternal proximity, and breastfeeding affords infants.


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