Breastfeeding safely during COVID-19

Breastfeeding safely during COVID-19

Multiple organizations determine the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks for many women and their babies

  • The World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and American Academy issued guidelines that recommend breastfeeding continue in most cases.
  • Taking the proper precautions helps ensure the safety of you and your baby.
  • Providence celebrates World Breastfeeding Week with a roundup of breastfeeding information.

[3 MIN READ]

Skin-to-skin contact and increased physical closeness are among the top benefits of breastfeeding, but are they putting your baby’s health at risk during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic? Not according to several organizations, including the World Health Organization’s (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and American Academy of Pediatrics.

Current guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding with appropriate foods added for up to two years and beyond. The pandemic has not changed that guidance. All three organizations recently released recommendations stating that breastfeeding should be encouraged even when the mother has suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Can I pass COVID-19 to my baby through my breastmilk?

Experts recommend you talk to your doctor about the pros and cons of breastfeeding if you have COVID-19. Although initial reports indicate the virus is not transmitted through breast milk, there are still risks of exposure with the close contact breastfeeding requires.

“After careful counseling and shared decision-making with her pediatrician, the mother must weigh the risk/benefit and decide what’s best in her case,” said Dr. David C. Lagrew, executive medical director and executive leader at the Providence Women and Children’s Services Institute in Southern California.

Despite a small risk, there are the positive benefits of breastfeeding for the mother and baby including nutrition and bonding.

"Current thinking and data suggest getting COVID-19 through the breast milk itself would be unlikely," added Dr. Lagrew. "The close contact could invoke respiratory spread, and, while it's unlikely infants would get a serious infection, there is still a risk. Despite that small risk, there are the positive benefits of breastfeeding for the mother and baby including nutrition and bonding.”

Benefits of breastfeeding

We've known for some time that breastfeeding does more than fill an empty belly. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding can help protect your infant from a variety of infections and illness. It promotes bonding and deepens the connection you have with your baby.

We know that babies who breastfeed will receive valuable protection during the upcoming cold and flu season, which helps keep them healthier overall—especially during the pandemic.

Experts are still working to determine if COVID-19 antibodies are passed through breast milk from a mother to her nursing baby. At minimum, we know that babies who breastfeed will receive valuable protection during the upcoming cold and flu season, which helps keep them healthier overall—especially during the pandemic.

Safety first

“For mothers who choose to proceed with breastfeeding after a shared decision-making process, we recommend appropriate precautions to reduce the risk,” said Dr. Lagrew

The CDC issued guidelines to increase the safety of both mom and baby. They include:

  • Wash your hands before and after breastfeeding.
  • Wear a cloth face mask while nursing.
  • Wash your hands before touching your breast pump or bottle parts, if you use them. Thoroughly clean everything after each use.

The pandemic has not changed our dedication to helping you and your baby have a successful breastfeeding experience. Providence continues to offer breastfeeding support and lactation consultation and guidance to help you get the best start possible.

#WBW2020

World Breastfeeding Week, #WBW2020, is celebrated the first week of August every year. The global campaign seeks to raise awareness and promote the benefits of breastfeeding. To further those efforts, we’ve gathered several of our past articles for a roundup of breastfeeding resources that can help boost your chances of success.

Resource roundup

How today’s midwife is making maternity care safer outlines how a certified nurse midwife can help create the birth experience you’re hoping for and assist your early breastfeeding efforts.

Breast is best for mom's heart health? explores the benefits of breastfeeding on your cardiovascular health.

Unsure what to believe when it comes to breastfeeding? 5 truths about breastfeeding can help you sort the facts from the fiction.

What’s best to eat for healthy breastfeeding? gives tips for getting the nutrition you need for a healthy breastfeeding eating plan.

When your child is ready to quit breastfeeding, The Do's and Don'ts of Baby-Led Weaning will get you started.

Watch the video: HealthBreak, The Benefits of Breastfeeding

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Find a doctor

If you need guidance deciding what’s best for you and your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic, our obstetricians offer compassionate care focused on your unique health needs. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can access a full range of healthcare services. If you need to find a doctor, you can use our provider directory or search for one in your area.

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

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