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

Karleen Gribble, Roger Mathisen, Mija Tesse Ververs, Anna Coutsoudis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


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. Conclusion: Policy makers and practitioners need to learn from the mistakes of the HIV pandemic and not undermine breastfeeding in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is clear that in order to maximise infant health and wellbeing, COVID-19 policies should support skin-to-skin contact, maternal proximity, and breastfeeding.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number67
JournalInternational Breastfeeding Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 25 2020


  • COVID-19
  • HIV
  • Infant and young child feeding in emergencies
  • Policy development
  • Prevention of mother-to-child-transmission

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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