Several newborns across the city have tested positive for Covid-19 within 24 to 48 hours of their birth.
Doctors at both public and private hospitals where these babies are born, however, say it is not the reason to separate them from their mothers. The hospitals follow different schools of thought in handling the mothers and their newborns.
Of 300 deliveries by Covid-positive mothers at Vani Vilas Hospital, at least seven have tested positive. In Gosha Hospital, 15 babies of 168 tested positive, while at the Motherhood Hospital, two of 35 newly born tested positive.
Vani Vilas had initially separated the mother and the baby and fed the breast milk manually expressed by her. Now, the hospital allows the baby to be with the mother — albeit at a distance of six feet — even if the mother is positive and the baby negative.
While the Apollo Hospital followed the expressed breast milk system, it allows a family member to take care of the baby until the mother tests negative. The hospital’s Bannerghatta Road branch so far had six deliveries by Covid-positive women, but none of the newborn babies have tested positive.
Doctors said separating the mother and the baby has a likely impact on mother-infant bonding, perinatal mental health and breastfeeding. Some others, however, argue for a safety-first approach.
“In the six to seven Covid-positive deliveries we had, one was a premature baby,” said Dr Prashanth S Urs, HOD and Senior Consultant, Neonatology, Apollo Hospitals, Bannerghatta Road. “Only after mothers tested negative were the baby transferred to them. (Covid) is an evolving disease and no one knows how the virus will behave.”
For the baby’s safety, the hospital lets a family member manage the baby and it is fed expressed breast milk. Dr Prashanth said the hospital might reconsider rooming babies with mothers with emerging evidence.
Dr Anitha G S, Assistant Professor, Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), said they are not separating babies from Covid-positive mothers at Gosha Hospital.
“We were separating mothers from the babies when pregnant mothers got admitted to the trauma and emergency care unit. We were also giving expressed breast milk. We don’t do it now because there are risks like dehydration of the baby and lactation failure,” Dr Anitha said.
Mothers were also feeling anxious when the babies were kept separated from them, which caused psychological difficulties.
Different methods adopted
Dr Prathap Chandra, Neonatologist, Motherhood Hospital, said the infected newborns only needed zinc, Vitamin C supplements and breast milk since they were asymptomatic.
Dr Sreenath Manikanti, Neonatologist, Fortis La Femme Hospital, said one newborn tested positive at his hospital because the mother was symptomatic with high viral load.
“If the mother keeps the baby six feet away after feeding, there is no risk of transmission to the baby,” Dr Sreenath said.
“Only if the mother is sick and in the ICU, should the baby be fed expressed breast milk, using a spoon and not a bottle, until the mother recovers,” Dr Sreenath added.