Breastfeeding and coronavirus: What you need to know

There isn’t enough experience with the coronavirus to know whether mothers can transmit it via breast milk, but available data suggests breastfeeding is not a likely source of transmission.

There isn’t enough experience with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to know whether mothers can transmit it via breast milk, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), available data suggests breastfeeding isn’t a likely source of transmission.

What should you do if you are breastfeeding and have COVID-19 symptoms or a confirmed infection?

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby.
  • Wear a cloth face covering, if possible, while feeding at the breast.
  • Do not put a face covering on any child under age 2.
  • Wash your hands before touching pump or bottle parts, and clean all parts after each use.

“Breast milk is still the best source of nutrition for babies and can protect against many diseases,” said Kristina A. Bryant, M.D., pediatric infectious disease specialist with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “While it appears that transmitting the coronavirus to a baby while feeding with breast milk is unlikely, you should take precautions. One option is for a mother to express breast milk and have a healthy caregiver feed it to her baby until her own infectious period ends.”

If you are breastfeeding and suspect you have COVID-19 or have had confirmation through a nasal swab test, your baby should remain in isolation with you for the duration of your isolation period and for 14 days after that, according to the CDC. The same applies to a baby who has had any other ongoing close contact with a suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient.

It is still important for your newborn to be seen for all recommended medical visits, so inform your doctor that your baby has potential risk for COVID-19 when making the appointment — so the office can take appropriate precautions.

Premature babies often are fed pasteurized breast milk from a donor. While there is no information available about what pasteurization does to the coronavirus, similar viruses are inactivated through pasteurization, according to the CDC.

And, remember, do not put a mask on a child under age 2.

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