Breastfeeding in COVID times – The facts

It’s such a relief we’re winning this fight against COVID-19 here in Australia and NZ, but for many of us the virus has had significant and lasting effects. I know there are heaps of you out there who, like me, feel that Corona stole the maternity leave you had dreamt of. There’s still a lot of anxiety around what it means to have a newborn in this crazy time. New evidence is coming out all the time - here’s a summary of the most recent research around feeding and COVID-19.

Corona and breast feeding -image credit

Image credit

Can I hold my newborn if I have COVID-19?

Yes! A million times yes! Skin to skin and contact with mum has so many benefits for a newborn. Rona isn't taking that from you. Just wash your hands before and after.


If I have confirmed or suspected COVID-19, should I feed?

Yes! There are very very few reasons (if any) not to give your baby breast milk. Corona Virus is NOT one of them. Please go ahead and breast feed or pump for your bubba. WHO just recommends that you wash your hands for 20secs before and after the feed.


Should I feed during the pandemic even if I don't have the virus?

We know that breast feeding is effective in protecting baby from all sorts of infections by giving bub some of your antibodies and other immune boosters. Though there isn't enough evidence to confirm this for COVID-19 it makes perfect sense that it probably is protective, and as long as you practice hand hygiene, it definitely can't harm.


Can COVID transmit through breast milk

Currently there isn't evidence to suggest COVID can transmit through your milk. Though there aren’t many cases to study, researches who looked at newborns that were infected did not find a convincing link with breast feeding or breast milk. What we do known is that there are plenty of other infections that are very bad for baby that your breast milk actually protects against. By all means, continue to give bub that liquid-gold.


Should I wear a mask when I feed?

Isn't feeding just the most snuggliest, cosiest time of day? Because you're so close to bub during a feed, WHO recommends wearing a mask if you are, or are suspected to be, infected. Don't worry, at least you can still gaze into each other's eyes 😍


Should I pump?

If you normally pump, you can go ahead and continue. Just take extra precautions with washing and sterilising your equipment. As per ABA, normally you can get away with rinsing the parts and storing in the fridge with one wash and sterilise at the end of the day, but don't do this if you think you might be infected. You're best to wash and sterilise after every feed.


Should I store my milk?

Store your milk in sterile bags or containers (like the Milkeaze liquid-gold milk storage bags) and follow the standard ABA milk storage guidelines. (link here)


Will my supply drop if I am infected?

Any illness can effect your milk supply. Make sure you look after #1 so you can look after baby. Lots of hydration and rest, and whatever food you can manage is key. Try to keep up regular feeds and if you can't manage that then do your best to pump. The aim is to empty your breast several times a day. Milkeaze cups will allow you to relax in an armchair and catch some z's while you express.


What if I'm too sick to feed?

Ask for assistance with pumping. Someone could hold your traditional flanges for you, or even better, you can sit in a chair and use hands free equipment like a pumping bra or Milkeaze cups. Ask a healthy person to hold a sterile container open for you and pour your milk into it. This stops the virus going from your hands onto the surface of the storage bag or container. Ask a healthy individual to feed bubba for you and concentrate on getting better.


Should baby get tested?

As per the Royal Childrens’ Hospital Melbourne, children and infants only need testing if they have symptoms that fit what health professionals call the "case definition" - such as fever, cough and sore throat. The complicating factor is that this definition is ever changing and depends on what state you're in. Long story short, check with your GP!


In summary breast milk is still a great idea during this pandemic, maybe more than ever. If you can, continue to feed and pump, just with some extras like a mask and frequent hand washing.


Though we hope you find it informative, this blog post is the view of the authors and is for entertainment purposes only. It does not constitute medical or legal advice. Please seek professional guidance if you or your baby are experiencing any issues. Happy reading! 

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