What new and expecting mothers need to know about breastmilk and coronavirus

Mother nursing son

With all of the news surrounding COVID-19, it’s normal to be concerned about your baby getting coronavirus (COVID-19) or giving this illness to your baby. We’re answering the questions you have about breastfeeding and COVID-19.

Is it safe to breastfeed my baby if I have been exposed to COVID-19?

Not only is your breastmilk safe for your baby, it is very beneficial to their growth and development.

While we do not know for sure whether mothers who have COVID-19 can pass the virus through breastmilk, there is no evidence that the virus is in breastmilk or amniotic fluid. However, if a mother does have COVID-19, the virus can make its way into the bloodstream, which results in her body making antibodies which can fight the virus. These helpful antibodies can be passed from mom to baby through breastmilk.

How to breastfeed safely during COVID-19

If you have COVID-19 or have symptoms of the illness, you can still pump your breastmilk for your baby. However, the difference is: A caregiver who is feeling well should feed the pumped breastmilk to your baby. Here are some steps you can follow to make pumping as safe as possible:

  • Wash your hands and your breasts with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Put on a mask and gloves.
  • Clean your breast pump.
  • Pump your breastmilk and pour it into a container.
  • Wipe the container and the surface where the container will be placed with an antibacterial wipe.
  • After each use, wash your collection kit with warm, soapy water, then rinse with water and air-dry it.
  • Sanitize your collection kit at least once a day with a microwave steam bag, boiling water or in the dishwasher.

You should follow these steps until your cough and respiratory droplets have improved.

Is donor milk safer?

You may think that you should be “on the safe side” and avoid feeding your baby your own milk if you feel ill. But remember, only your milk will have the one-of-a-kind antibodies that will lower the chances that your baby will get sick with COVID-19. It’s still recommended that you feed your baby breastmilk, even in the presence of COVID-19, because it will help a baby’s immature immune system fight all types of infections.

How can I make sure donor milk is safe for my baby?

Some moms may need to rely on donor milk for their babies, and it’s normal to be concerned about the safety of donor milk. However, milk banks follow many steps to ensure the breastmilk they provide is safe. First, donors must have a blood test to show that they do not have any illnesses that could be passed in milk. Then, a sample of the breastmilk is tested by the milk bank to ensure it does not have any harmful germs in it. A mother can only donate after passing both of those tests.

Finally, all donor breastmilk is pasteurized, just like the milk sold at grocery stores. This is a heat treatment that can kill germs in the milk, including viruses like COVID-19.

 

Get more information about pregnancy and COVID-19.