For most infants, breast milk is the best source of nutrition. It protects against many illnesses. There is no certain data that COVID-19 can transmit via breast milk. COVID-19 spread from person-to-person via droplets when they sneeze, cough, or talk. The limited data available suggest that it is not likely to transmit the infection through breastfeeding.
Guidelines on how to breastfeed in the context of COVID-19:
- You should be counselled to take all the possible precautions to avoid the spreading of infection to your infant.
- You should wash your hands with soap and water before touching the infant especially if your hands are visibly soiled.
- Always have on hand a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
- While feeding at the breast, you should wear a cloth face covering.
- If you are having the breast milk by hand expression or with a breast pump, you need to make sure your hands are clean.
- You may ask your healthcare provider how to appropriately sanitize and clean breast pumps.
- Expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a health caregiver who is not at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
If you are a mother suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patient:
A mother suspected or confirmed with the infection should have isolation of 14 days. They should also be counselled to inform that their child has a high risk of having the infection. Being in close contact with a person suspected or confirmed with the infection increases the risk of having it.
If you are a breastfeeding mother who works in settings with a higher risk of potential exposure to COVID-19:
- You should also be recommended to take all the possible safety measures to avoid the spread of infection to your infant.
- Before expressing breast milk, you should make sure that your hands are already washed.
- The employers should give you a private or non-bathroom space for milk expression.
COVID-19 stays on surfaces for more than a few hours to days. Healthcare providers must discuss a mother’s circumstances when counseling about additional precautions while at work.
Additional Information about Contraindications to Breastfeeding to Infants:
Do not breastfeed if
- The infant is has a classic galactosemia
- The mother is infected with HIV and t-cell lymphotropic virus type I or II
Temporarily do not breastfeed if
- The mother is having a certain prescription
- Infected with untreated brucellosis
- Is undergoing diagnostic imaging with radio pharmaceuticals
- Has an active herpes simplex virus with lesions present on the affected breast
You may feed expressed breast milk and temporarily should not breastfeed if
- The mother has untreated and active tuberculosis. The mother may start again on breastfeeding once she has been treated with the condition and confirmed to be not anymore contagious.
- Has an active varicella infection that developed within 5 days
Medications while breastfeeding
There are few medications that a breastfeeding mother can’t take while breastfeeding. Other medications pass into breast milk, most have no known adverse effect on milk supply. However, healthcare providers should always weight the risks and benefits when prescribing medication to a breastfeeding mother.