Many parents are understandably concerned about the impacts of COVID-19 could have their feeding journey.
So, we’ve gathered together a selection of FAQs to help give you the information you need to protect you and your baby.
COVID-19 and Feeding Your Baby
If you breastfeed your baby but have symptoms – or a confirmed case – of COVID-19, breastfeeding advice from the CDC outlines these main steps to follow in order to avoid spreading the virus to your little one:
- Before touching your baby wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- Wear a mask while breastfeeding and whenever you are within 6 feet of your baby.
Aswell as the above points, if you choose to express breastmilk...
- Wash your hands before you touch breast pumps or bottles and throughly sterilise these items afterwards.
- Consider having a healthy caregiver feed the expressed breast milk to the baby. The caregiver should be fully vaccinated (at least two weeks after the 2nd dose of a 2-dose vaccine or two weeks after a 1-dose vaccine) and not be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
COVID-19 and Breastfeeding FAQs
Is breastfeeding and expressing milk safe during COVID-19?
You might be worried about breastfeeding your baby and/or expressing milk during the Coronavirus pandemic, but there has been no evidence to date that the virus can be passed from mother to baby through breastmilk. For more infomation, take a look at this leaflet from the CDC.
Can my baby continue drinking expressed breast milk if I test positive for COVID-19?
If you have tested positive for COVID-19 your baby can still receive your breast milk. Washing your hands and carefully cleaning your breast(s) before expressing your milk and feeding your baby is highly recommended, as is cleaning your breast pump thoroughly after each use.
If I have COVID-19, can I stay in the same room with my baby?
The CDC offers some practical advice. Early and close contact between mom and baby has many well-established benefits. The ideal setting for care of a healthy newborn while in hospital is in the mom's room. Current evidence suggests the risk of a baby acquiring COVID-19 from its mother is low. Also, data suggests that there is no difference in risk of COVID-19 infection to the baby whether a baby is cared for in a separate room or remains in the mom’s room.
There is, however, a potential risk of COVID-19 transmission to the baby via contact with infectious respiratory secretions from the mother, caregiver, or other person with COVID-19 infection, including just before the individual develops symptoms when viral replication may be high. As such, all caregivers should practice infection prevention and control measures (i.e., wearing a mask, practicing hand hygiene) before and while caring for a baby.
Mom’s with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection may feel uncomfortable with this potential risk. Ideally, each mom and her healthcare providers should discuss whether she would like baby to be cared for in her room or a separate location if she is suspected or confirmed of having COVID-19, weighing the considerations listed below. It’s easiest to begin this conversation during prenatal care and continue it through labour and delivery.
You can find further advice regarding caring for your baby and keeping them safe here and here.
How do I maintain my milk supply if I am sick with COVID-19?
If you are sick with COVID-19, you can still maintain your milk supply by regularly expressing your breast milk. If you choose to continue breastfeeding then it is recommended that you follow profession healthcare advice, such as the CDC breastfeeding guidelines.
How can I protect my baby from contracting COVID-19?
The most efficient ways to protect against your baby contracting the COVID-19 virus are as follows...
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water.
- Use hand sanitiser in addition to soap and water.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Keep surfaces clean, particularly ones your infant may touch.
- Make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue or your sleeve if necessary.
Do not put a face shield or mask on your baby. A face shield or mask could increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or accidental suffocation and strangulation.
If I get Coronavirus should I switch my baby onto formula?
At this point, health experts haven’t found COVID-19 to be present in human milk, which already contains antibodies to protect your baby’s health and boost their immune system. Therefore there is no need to switch to formula if you have contracted the virus. You can choose to express your milk with a breast pump, or if you continue breastfeeding then follow the recommended health advice to ensure optimal hygiene.
If I have COVID-19 and stopped breastfeeding or have been separated from my baby, can I restart?
If you took a break from breastfeeding because you contracted COVID-19, you can start to breastfeed again once you feel well enough to do so. There is no recommended time to wait before starting again, though it may take time and patience to re-lactate.