There is one frequently asked question regarding coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), and the virus that causes this disease upon which all experts agree. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), and UNICEF all say the same thing about COVID-19 and breastfeeding. Keep breastfeeding!
COVID-19 is a disease spread through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The concern about a mother with COVID-19 breastfeeding is not the breastmilk; it’s the mother being in close contact with her infant. A mother suspected of, or diagnosed with, COVID-19, may continue to breastfeed her baby if she feels like it. What she does need to do is take measures to prevent infecting others, including her baby, with respiratory droplets from her coughing and sneezing. She should wear a mask and practice proper handwashing techniques. Viruses can survive on surfaces from hours to days, so surfaces need to be cleaned and disinfected.
A mother diagnosed with COVID-19 may not feel like breastfeeding. In that case, she should express her breastmilk for someone who is not ill to feed the infant. When pumping, she needs to use proper handwashing techniques and carefully follow the pump manufacturer instructions on cleaning her pump.
It is essential to realize that a mother diagnosed with COVID-19 has likely already infected her infant. CDC states, “In limited reports of lactating women infected with SARS-CoV, the virus has not been detected in breast milk; however, antibodies against SARS-CoV were detected in at least one sample.” The baby needs to keep nursing to receive those valuable, protective antibodies.
There is much more to learn about COVID-19, and investigations are ongoing. This information is based on the best currently available recommendations.
For more helpful information, download this newsletter. If you have additional questions, please call the Arkansas Department of Health Call Center at 1-800-803-7847.