So you’re breastfeeding and have Covid-19 – wondering if it’s still safe to continue breastfeeding? Here is what we know about Covid-19 and breastfeeding.
COVID-19 has been a part of our reality for almost a year now – but there often seems to be more questions than answers at times.
I regularly am getting questions from mothers about what to do if they contract the COVID-19 virus while breastfeeding.
There are certainly many opinions on this, but I wanted to share the most recent information so you can make the most informed decision.
I am a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and an IBCLC candidate, but this article is for educational purposes alone. Please always work with your medical provider if you contract COVID-19.
To start, here is a little infographic I made on Instagram that summarizes the data:
Is COVID-19 transmitted through breast milk?
The limited studies have not detected breast milk in mothers who have COVID-19 or SARS, which is similar in nature.
However, some information has shown that antibodies for the virus have been found in breast milk, so continuing to offer breastfeeding during a COVID-19 illness can potentially pass the antibodies to fight off the illness to mothers.
How does COVID-19 affect breastfeeding?
The primary concern is that a mother with COVID-19 could transfer the virus to her infant via droplets while nursing.
This is a concern with any kind of infectious disease – such as the Flu – and the current recommendation is to continue to nurse through the flu. There are actually very rare circumstances in which a mother would be encouraged to discontinue breastfeeding.
The main concern I could see is if a mother was sick enough that she wasn’t able to nurse regularly or gets dehydrated, which could result in a lower supply.
What Should I do if I contract the COVID-19 while breastfeeding?
Your breast milk is really the best defense you can give your child against most illnesses – COVID-19 included. You must weigh the pros and cons, but chances are, the transmission of antibodies to fight it through your breast milk is going to be the best defense you can give your baby.
If you are confirmed or suspected of having COVID-19, make sure you are in touch with your doctor and take the following preventative measures in order to avoid transmission to your baby:
- Wash hands thoroughly before touching baby – wash for at least 20 seconds!
- Avoid touching baby’s hands and face or anything that might go in baby’s mouth
- Wear a face mask while feeding baby if possible
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts, and wash them thoroughly after use – here are the recommendations for proper pump care.
- If you are feeding with a bottle, consider having someone else feed the expressed milk
- If you are hospitalized, advocate for yourself to keep your baby with you if you can
Again, for the most part, there isn’t a huge reason at this point to discontinue breastfeeding if you contract the coronavirus, however, make sure you keep in contact with your medical provider.
Here is a page from the CDC with more information.
Obviously, if you don’t have the coronavirus (or any other respiratory illness, such as RSV), the biggest thing you need to be doing is preventing transmission to you or your baby.
- Washing hands frequently
- Avoiding touching your face or your baby’s face/hands
- Making sure anyone who touches your baby washes their hands first
- Turning away sick people and avoiding places where there may be a lot of illnesses going around
What about the COVID-19 Vaccine?
Now that a vaccine is starting to be distributed, there are (understandably) many questions and concerns. While no lactating women were included in clinical trials thus far, the consensus seems to be that it is considered safe. Please click here to view our entire discussion on this topic.
This post was written based on information from the CDC regarding breastfeeding, pregnancy, and COVID-19. No information in this post should be taken as medical advice.
Katie Clark is a Certified Lactation Educator, Certified Breastfeeding Specialist, and IBCLC student. She has helped thousands of mothers and families around the globe navigate breastfeeding challenges and questions since 2015. She has a passion for creating research-based, helpful breastfeeding education and helping parents find a way to make breastfeeding work for them. Katie is a mom of three little boys and lives in the great state of Colorado. She also has a degree in Communications with an emphasis in print journalism.