Much is still unknown about the possible risk to a baby when a breastfeeding mother is infected with COVID-19. The COVID-19 virus is known to be passed from one person to another usually after close contact with an infected person (e.g., in a household, workplace or health care setting) through respiratory secretions and droplets sprayed when coughing and sneezing by an infected person.
Transmission of the virus is thought to also occur through touching surfaces contaminated with respiratory droplets, then touching you mouth, nose or eyes before washing your hands.
During most illnesses breastfeeding is the safest way to feed a baby. Because COVID-19 is a new virus there are no studies about this yet. If you are sick, the decision whether to start or continue breastfeeding should be discussed with your healthcare provider. If you are not sick, continue breastfeeding.
What We Do Know Right Now:
- Breast milk is still recommended as the best source of nutrition for infants, as it contains antibodies necessary to enhance an infant’s immune system. A mother shares her immune system with her baby through her breast milk.
- COVID-19 is thought to be spread primarily through droplets when a person sneezes or coughs, similar to the flu. As of now, the virus has not been detected in breast milk, and there is currently no concern for transmission through breastfeeding, or by bottle feeding expressed milk.
- If you have confirmed COVID-19, or are showing symptoms without confirmation, experts recommend that you continue breastfeeding. However, you may need to implement interventions to avoid spreading the virus to your baby. These can include washing your hands before touching your baby and wearing a face mask while breastfeeding. You may also express milk and have a healthy caregiver feed the baby.
- If you are within the immediate postpartum period with confirmed COVID-19 (or are symptomatic), specialists still recommend that you continue traditional rooming-in practices and breastfeeding, unless you require an elevated level of care and separation from your infant.
- There are no current recommendations to discontinue milk donation, milk sharing, or storing milk pumped at this time for later use. Continue to wash pump parts with antibacterial soap and warm/hot water.
If you are using infant formula be sure to have at least a 14-day supply of formula and any supplies needed to sterilize the equipment.
There is little known about COVID-19 and the risk to babies during pregnancy and during delivery. It is, however, known that during pregnancy a woman’s immune system changes, and they may be more susceptible to infections in general. Taking the usual precautions are very important for pregnant women:
- Clean your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cough and sneeze into the bend of your arm, or a tissue and not into your hand.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes with your hands.
- Clean objects and surfaces that a lot of people touch, such as doorknobs, phones, and television remotes with regular household cleaner.
- Get your influenza vaccine.
- Stay home when you are sick and avoid contact with other people until your symptoms are gone.
- Do not share personal items that come into contact with saliva such as toothbrushes, eating utensils, drinks, water bottles, and towels.
If you are feeling ill, call your health care provider in advance to let them know of your symptoms and any recent travel to COVID-19 affected areas. Do not go to your health care provider or a walk-in clinic without calling ahead.
Additional reference information is below regarding breast milk and COVID-19. The best resource to point to continues to be CDC and ABM and we have also included direct links for you to visit and share:
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