Breastfeeding During COVID-19
The outbreak of COVID-19 has been a stressful time for everyone, especially moms learning to navigate life during this pandemic with a new baby. However, new moms can successfully start and maintain breastfeeding during the pandemic, with a few recommended precautions.
- Wear a facemask and wash your hands before each feeding.
- If you are sick, consider expressing breast milk to establish and maintain milk supply
- If possible, consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to your baby.
- Wash hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Thoroughly clean all parts of the pump and bottles after each use
Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants. It protects them from many infections. While it is still not clear if this is true for the COVID-19 virus, breastfed infants are generally less likely to have severe respiratory symptoms when they get sick. Breastfeeding is also good for moms, as hormones are released in the mother's body during breastfeeding and help promote wellness, relieve stress and can reduce anxiety.
Coronavirus spreads between people who are in close contact, mainly through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. To date, there is no evidence that COVID-19 is passed from mother to baby in breastmilk. However, if you have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19, staying in a different room from your baby is the safest way to keep your newborn healthy. A healthy caregiver should take care of the baby and can feed expressed breast milk.
If you and your family decide to keep your baby in the same room as you, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from your baby. When closer than 6 feet, wear a mask and make sure your hands are clean. You can better protect your baby from COVID-19 by continuing to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Look for one that is 60% or higher alcohol-based. Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands. Also, be sure to clean visibly dirty or possibly contaminated surfaces your infant may touch. Remind all caregivers to wash hands thoroughly before touching bottles, feeding or caring for your baby.
If you have COVID-19, you can stop isolating yourself from your baby once you are fever-free without use of fever medicines (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) for at least 72 hours; when your other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving and when at least seven days have passed since your symptoms started. Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, but always check with your doctor.
Hand pumping and hand expressing breast milk is especially helpful in the first few days after your baby is born to get your milk supply going. Frequent pumping or direct breastfeeding should line up with your infant's feeding demands, about eight to 10 times in a 24-hour period.
While this may be a stressful time, try to stay optimistic and practice healthy habits to reduce stress as much as possible. This includes getting enough sleep, eating plenty of healthy foods, and getting regular exercise.
Don’t hesitate to ask your physician or Lactation Consultant for help if you have trouble with feeding, nipple pain, low milk supply or with any other concerns.
Practice physical distancing by avoiding public spaces and stay 6 feet away from others whenever possible. And be sure that everyone in your home avoids close contact with anyone with respiratory symptoms such as coughing or individuals with probable COVID-19.
Remember, breastfeeding is a key preventive health step for baby and mother, even during the pandemic. Talk with your pediatrician about how to keep your baby healthy and what resources might be available in your community to help you.
If you are a new mom and would like to learn more about post-delivery resources, including our Mother Baby Care Guide check out https://www.ochsner.org/newmom/post-delivery-resources.