Is it Safe to Breastfeed During the COVID-19 Outbreak?

The COVID-19 outbreak continues to spark many questions, including those about pregnancy and breastfeeding. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is a brand-new virus so there’s little known about its effects on infants who are breastfeeding. Many parents are concerned with spreading the virus to their baby and want to know what they should do to protect their child. If you’re currently breastfeeding, you’re probably wondering, “Is it safe to breastfeed my baby during the COVID-19 outbreak?”

Yes, moms should continue to breastfeed.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) says that the primary concern is not whether the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, but rather whether an infected mother can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that all mothers who are currently breastfeeding, continue to do so and should either feed the baby directly from the breast or pump and put it into bottles. Carrie Kimball, certified lactation consultant at Burdett Birth Center agrees. “Mothers should continue to give their own milk as much as possible even if they test positive for COVID-19 or become a person under investigation,” she says.

Breast milk provides protection for babies against many illnesses. Research shows that a mother’s breast milk contains many antibodies that help fight off infection and disease which is why the WHO says “any interruption of breastfeeding can potentially put your baby at more risk of contracting COVID-19.”  Breastfeeding may actually be one of the best things you can do to protect your little one.

If it’s not possible to produce an entire daily quantity of milk to feed your baby, you may need to try some alternatives. “You should only use FDA-regulated formula or donor human milk to feed your baby if you’re not producing enough milk or do not wish to lactate,” says Kimball. However, the more you can make yourself, the less you will need to depend on other sources in the event of a supply shortage.

Take precautions to keep your baby safe.

Avoid spreading the virus to your infant by washing your hands before and after touching your baby and wearing a face mask when you are in close contact with them. ACOG suggests that mothers who are ill from COVID-19 but still wish to breastfeed can express their milk and store it in bottles. If you are ill, you should consider allowing someone who is healthy to bottle feed your baby.

Along with washing your hands before and after touching your baby, the WHO recommends routinely wiping down and disinfecting surfaces. You should also be washing your hands before touching pump or bottle parts and clean and disinfect all parts after each use. 

While it’s understandable to have concerns and questions about the safety of breastfeeding during the COVID-19 outbreak, rest assured, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not seen any evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk. By taking the necessary precautions and maintaining healthy hygiene habits, you can prevent the spread of COVID-19 to your baby. Mothers are encouraged to continue to breastfeed while practicing good daily hygiene habits and routinely disinfecting surfaces to prevent the spread of the virus.

Information in this article is not intended to be used as medical advice, but instead for thought and consideration. For more information, please consult your provider or your child’s pediatrician regarding more information about COVID-19 and breastfeeding. You can also follow the latest updates from the CDC here.

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