Breastfeeding during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Breastfeeding is pivotal for the healthy growth and development of infants and young children, as well as for maternal health. With the emergence of COVID-19, many concerns have been raised concerning breastfeeding mothers carrying the virus.
To date, there is no concrete evidence on whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus to their babies through breastfeeding. However, based on some published data, transmission is plausible but unlikely.
Based on the latest updates on COVID-19 and pregnancy, pregnant women deciding to breastfeed should:
- Attend all prenatal care obstetrician or postpartum appointments
- Keep socially distanced, wear a mask, and frequently wash their hands
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as tables, chairs, light switches, doorknobs, and phones, etc.
Despite the uncertainty of virus transmission to their babies, mothers who choose to breastfeed should:
- Wear a mask while breastfeeding and wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before feeding
- Consider a temporary separation from the newborn if they have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection
If a breastfeeding infant is suspected of having COVID-19, they should be considered as having COVID-19, until proven otherwise, and be isolated for the duration of the mother’s recommended period of home isolation and 14 days after that.
If the mother has COVID-19 and chooses to express breast milk, she should:
- Use a personal breast pump
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk
- Wear a mask during expression
- Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use, cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk
- Ask a healthy caregiver, if possible, to feed expressed breast milk to the infant
Before deciding whether to breastfeed or not, pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers should read the guidelines from the CDC and WHO to avoid or minimize possible vertical transmission of COVID-19.
Luciana Aparecida Campos Baltatu, Ph.D.
College of Health Sciences
Abu Dhabi University