CMSRU faculty, student co-author study showing COVID-infected mothers separated from babies affects breastfeeding outcomes

CMSRU faculty, student co-author study showing COVID-infected mothers separated from babies affects breastfeeding outcomes


CAMDEN, NJIn March 2020, after declaring COVID-19 a pandemic, there was conflicting advice about the care of mothers and newborns in the hospital setting, and WHO evidence-based recommendations for direct breastfeeding, skin-to-skin care, and keeping mothers and newborns in close proximity to each other were practices that were under attack in the interest of reducing spread of the infection. Results of a new study now indicate that keeping mothers and infants together likely outweigh the risks of infection to babies born to mothers with COVID-19, and separation is associated with harm.

In one of the largest studies of its kind to date, a retrospective cohort study of 357 cis-gender biological mothers in 31 countries, published in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, evaluates the benefits of mother-baby contact versus separation with regard to viral transmission, clinically significant symptoms of COVID-19, and investigates whether breastfeeding might protect infants from infection. Keeping them apart can cause maternal distress and have a negative effect on exclusive breastfeeding later in infancy, according to The COVID Mothers Study published in the peer-reviewed journal Breastfeeding Medicine. Click here to read the article now.

Lori Feldman-Winter, MD, MPH, professor of pediatrics at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) and division head of adolescent medicine at Cooper University Health Care, is senior author, along with co-authors, CMSRU student Nikhil Bhana, and Cooper biostatistician John Gaughan, MS, PhD, MBA. The Cooper team joined an international research group led by Harvard’s expert, Melissa Bartick, MD, MS.  

“Receiving evidence-based quality standards known to support breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic was associated with a significantly increased chance of continued exclusive breastfeeding in the 3 months after leaving the hospital,” noted Feldman-Winter. She, along with other study co-authors, agreed that direct breastfeeding, skin-to-skin care, and rooming-in within arms’ reach may be safe for mothers infected with SARS-CoV-2, and was not associated with an increased risk of infant illness.

Nearly 60% of mothers who experienced separation reported feeling very distressed, and 78% reported at least moderate distress. Nearly 1/3 of separated mothers (29%) were unable to breastfeed once reunited with their infants, despite trying.

For Bhana, a second-year CMSRU student, assisting in a research study this large and this timely offered a unique opportunity. “As medical student, it was a privilege to work alongside physicians and healthcare workers from around the world on a project that is one of the largest cohort studies of breastfeeding mothers with COVID-19 — one that will have important implications for maternity care practices during this pandemic."

For details visit the study website: