Breastfeeding Your Baby Amidst COVID-19 Precautions

a mother and her child

More Questions?

Feel free to email Libby Smith, Director of Women’s Services at fsmith@sbch.org or call (805) 682-7111 and ask for the Birth Center or (805) 569-7258 and leave a message.

Not only is it safe to breastfeed your baby, it is recommended.

We understand that the spread of COVID-19 has raised a lot of questions and concerns for parents with children. We have prepared this information to help clarify any questions surrounding breastfeeding during the spread of COVID-19.

Does COVID-19 get into my milk?

We do not know for sure whether mothers with COVID-19 pass the virus into their milk. There are very few studies, and the ones that exist did not find COVID-19 in breast milk. Studies of mother’s who had a similar virus (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome; SARS-CoV) did not find the SARS virus in breast milk.

However, any virus that makes its way into the mother’s blood stream causes the mother to make very specific types of protection, called antibodies, that fight these same viruses. These antibodies pass into the mothers milk. So, in the unlikely event that the virus is transferred in the milk, so are the antibodies that even the most modern medicines cannot provide.

All authorities (World Health Organization, WHO; Centers for Disease Control, CDC; American Academy of Pediatrics, AAP; Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine; ABM) recommend breastfeeding. Breastmilk provision (pumped breast milk) should continue in the presence of COVID-19, as a mother’s milk helps her baby’s immune system fight all types of infections.

Wouldn’t it be best just to give formula?

It is easy to think that it is “on the safe side” to avoid providing your milk, but the opposite is true. Only your milk—not formula– has the one-of-a-kind antibodies to lower the chances that your baby becomes sick with COVID-19.

What else can I do to lower the chances of my baby being exposed to COVID-19 while providing my milk?

Remember that all germs, including COVID-19, can get into pumped milk, even if they do not start off at the breast itself.

Wash your hands with warm soapy water before feeding or pumping. If you have a cough, or feel unwell, wear a mask while breastfeeding or pumping. Wash your pump parts in warm soapy water and rinse in warm water, air dry on a cleaned surface away from other dishes and all food preparation, between each pumping. Avoid coughing or sneezing on your bare breasts, baby, or pumping supplies and storage containers, as viruses are spread often in this way. When storing pumped milk, wash the outside of the storage container after sealing it and before placing it in the refrigerator or freezer. Wash your hands again after breastfeeding or pumping.

This information was adapted from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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