More infected moms isolated with babies

• Mothers face tough choice of exposing infants to Covid-19

30 June 2020 | Health



More women who have tested positive for the Covid-19 are in isolation together with their minor children, Namibian Sun has established.

The executive director in the ministry of health, Ben Nangombe, acknowledged the situation, describing it as complex.

He said each case is dealt with on its merits, saying that in some instances, mothers have to be isolated with their children, given the stigma attached to being a Covid-19 patient, and relatives and other caregivers being reluctant to take care of the children of those infected.

A Covid-19 infected Walvis Bay mother, who complained last week that she was forced to self-isolate with one of her young children, confirmed yesterday that she was now in a state isolation facility with both her children, along with several other women in the same predicament.

She said it was a very difficult to decision going into state isolation with her children, but they are still very young. “Even if they separate us, the problem is who is going to take care of my children because my children are very small,” she said. The woman told Namibian Sun that there were many other women in isolation together with their children. By yesterday Namibia had registered 183 coronavirus cases, with 24 recoveries and 159 active cases.

Relatives unable to assist

“In many cases we have found that once a person has tested positive, even relatives are not able to assist in taking care of the children who may not necessarily be positive.

“It is a complex matter and our social workers on the ground assess each and every situation and make a decision in the interest of the parent and child,” Nangombe said.

“Each circumstance differs,” he added.


The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that babies continue to be breastfed even if the mother is infected, Nangombe said

“The recommendation from WHO is that such a person continue to breastfeed, but of course with the necessary measures to avoid passing the infection to a small child.”

The decision to separate mothers from their infants was also based on circumstances, he said.

“People with infants or young children, each circumstance differs. I would think every decision taken, it was consulted with the person involved and our social workers,” he said.

International guidelines

The WHO also advises that infected mothers can share a room with their infants and breastfeed, but should practice “respiratory hygiene”. They should also wash their hands and wear a mask.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that facilities should “consider temporarily” separating mothers and newborns after “discussing the risks and benefits with the mother and healthcare team”.

The CDC further says that mothers can breastfeed with respiratory hygiene. A separated infant must also be isolated from other babies.

The CDC makes provision for Covid-infected mothers to share a room with their babies if “it is in accordance with the mother's wishes” or if it is unavoidable due to facility limitations.

In such cases, the infant should be kept more than two metres from the mother with a curtain or barrier separating them, if possible, and respiratory hygiene measures should apply. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists refers to the CDC guidelines.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine emphasises mothers' choice and notes that breastfeeding and rooming in are “reasonable” choices, and also refers to the CDC and WHO guidelines.

The Chinese Expert Consensus on Perinatal and Neonatal Management recommends no breastfeeding or breastmilk feeding and full separation.