'Should I Breastfeed During COVID-19 Pandemic?'
Is breastfeeding worth the possible exposure to Covid-19?
Short answer: yes.
Unfortunately, the risk of COVID-19 is everywhere in our lives right now, but the reality is your baby needs another human to survive. So regardless of the way your baby gets their nutrition, having them completely secluded from the world, or attempting to limit their exposure to you, is not only impossible; it's also not a good option for optimal health and growth as well as bonding for your baby.
As always, the way you feed your baby is a personal decision, but it doesn’t change the fact that breastmilk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants, even and especially during this world health emergency.
What precautions should a well mother take?
- Practice skin to skin, especially immediately after birth during the establishment of breastfeeding.
- Maintain social distancing. In the UK, this time of lockdown and isolation has shown that without the constant stream of visitors, mothers and babies have had better opportunities for uninterrupted bonding, therefor mothers have a better supply, and babies have quicker weight gain.
- Wash your hands before feeding and frequently throughout the day.
- If pumping, limit the people who feed your baby bottles.
- Routinely clean and disinfect surfaces.
But what if you are diagnosed with Covid-19?
In limited studies on breastfeeding women with COVID-19 and other corona virus infections, the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however the bigger risk is likely transmission through respiratory droplets.
With precautions in place, WHO and the CDC both agree that the benefits of breastfeeding are outweighed by the risk.
If you are sick and choose to direct breastfeed:
- Wear a facemask and wash your hands before each feeding.
- Avoid touching your or the baby’s eyes, nose and mouth.
- Continue skin to skin.
If you are sick and choose to express breast milk:
- Express breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply.
- Use a dedicated breast pump.
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Follow CDC guidelines for proper cleaning and disinfecting recommendations of pump parts.
- Consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant, if possible.
Breastfeeding is a key preventative health step, especially during a pandemic.
Talk with your pediatrician about recourses that are available for help during this time. Cook Children’s Virtual Lactation services are available: Virtual Lactation Consultation.
Get to know Holly Erwin, Cook Children's Virtual Lactation Consultant
Holly Erwin, LVN, IBCLC, is a mom of three boys and has worked as a pediatric nurse for over 11 years within the Cook Children's Health Care System. When not working, she spends her time running to and from sports for her boys, being outside with her family and dreaming of traveling with her husband of 10 years. For now, she settles for their bi-annual date-night!
Through her own children and the thousands of moms that she has helped over the years, Holly found a special interest in infants and breastfeeding. In 2015, she became internationally board certified as a lactation consultant and now works as an IBCLC virtually through the Cook Children's telemedicine department. Schedule an appointment with our virtual lactation consultant.