Breastfeeding in an Era of COVID-19

With the global Covid-19 pandemic, we are all doing very well to protect ourselves and others from the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. We follow all the guidelines, including maintaining a physical distance (2m) as well as regular hand hygiene (thorough 20-second hand wash or hand sanitizer).


So, what happens with breastfeeding during this time?


Fortunately, protecting your baby is like protecting yourself.

Scientists are still learning about this new virus, and medical research is ongoing. But from what experts know so far, it is safe to breastfeed your baby. However, this situation calls for some special precautions, especially if you have any symptoms of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19.

Researchers have not yet found SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk, though research is limited.


Guidelines for “safe” breastfeeding

If you can breastfeed your baby, it is important to keep it up. But there are special guidelines to protect your baby during this pandemic.

While we have already established that you likely cannot pass on the new coronavirus through your breast milk, you can still pass it through droplets from your mouth and nose or by touching your baby after coming in contact with your face or these droplets.


  1.  Wash your hands frequently & carefully before
  • * touching your baby,
  • * especially before and after you pick up your baby or
  • * handle baby bottles and other baby items.


  1. Wear a mask while you are breastfeeding your baby – even if you do not have symptoms.

Also, wear a mask while you are holding, changing, or talking to your baby. This will likely be uncomfortable for you, but it can help prevent a coronavirus infection.


  1. Disinfect surfaces
  • * Clean and disinfect anything you have touched with an alcohol-based cleaner. This includes counter tops,       changing tables, bottles and clothing.
  • * Also, clean surfaces that are widely used and may be contaminated with droplets, e.g. door handles, toilet     flushing mechanisms, taps.
  • * Carefully clean and disinfect everything that might touch your baby.


  1. Pump breast milk and have your partner or a family member feed your baby.
  • * Wash your hands and clean any area of skin the breast pump will touch.
  • * Ensure that the bottle is completely sterile by placing it in boiled water between feedings.
  • * Disinfect the breast milk parts carefully with boiled water or soap and water.


  1. Keep baby formula on hand if you feel you are ill or have symptoms of COVID-19. Keep baby formula and sterile baby bottles on hand ready to go, just in case.


Breast milk provide baby with immunity

Breast milk gives your baby protection against several kinds of illnesses. Breast milk not only fills your baby’s hungry tummy, it also gives them automatic — but temporary — immunity against some bacteria and viruses.


Medical research on another kind of coronavirus (SARS-CoV) found antibodies to it in breast milk. Antibodies are like little soldiers that look for a certain kind of germ and get rid of it before it can cause harm. Your body makes antibodies when you contract an illness or when you get a vaccine for it.


Risks of breastfeeding currently

Talk to your doctor if you must use any medication.

They may tell you not to breastfeed your baby or give your baby pumped breast milk if you are taking certain medications for a SARS-CoV-2 infection or other viral infection.

So, while there is currently no established treatment for COVID-19, it is an evolving situation. Not all the drugs being considered as potential treatments have lactation data.

If you have severe COVID-19 symptoms, do not try to breastfeed. You need your energy to help you recover from this infection.


Bonding – with precautions

With a new baby you almost always go unknowingly into a type of self-isolation, even before Covid-19!

As we self-isolate to protect ourselves, our families, and everyone else, some things are quite different. This includes breastfeeding your baby. Do not worry. This is all temporary.

Meanwhile, here is what breastfeeding (or bottle-feeding) your baby may look like for now:

  1.  You hear your baby stirring and know he is about to let out the hungry cry, but
  2.  you take a few minutes to carefully wash your hands with warm water and soap.
  3.  Put your face mask on, carefully touching the elastic ties that go around your ears only. This virus travels     speedily through tiny droplets from the mouth and nose.
  4.  Put on a pair of sterile gloves to open the door to your baby’s room and turn off the baby monitor. Get   everything ready for feeding. Corona viruses can live on plastic, stainless steel, and cardboard surfaces.
  5.  Take off the gloves carefully without touching the outsides — you do not want to re-infect your hands.
  6.  Alternatively, use a hand sanitizer just before handling your baby.
  7.  Smile with your eyes, softly singing, talking and calling baby’s name as you pick up your baby. Your baby   does not notice the mask — they are used to it, and besides, they are hungry.
  8.  Your baby snuggles into your lap, “tummy to mommy”, and is ready to eat.
  9.  Avoid touching your own face and your baby’s face, gently caressing the back instead.
  10.  As your baby feeds, you keep your hands and attention on him. Touching your phone, laptop, or     anything else risks infecting your clean hands and baby.
  11.  Relax and bond as he feed himself into a peaceful slumber.


You do not have to miss out on this precious bonding while taking precautions.


Contact your physiotherapist at 021-976 4832 or should you experience any problems.