Home & Family
Dealing with the coronavirus (COVID-19) as a mother can cause uncertainty and bring on many questions. What do I do if my young child is diagnosed? What about breastfeeding while the mother or child has or is suspected of having coronavirus? How do I continue to breastfeed my child if one of us is under quarantine?
Breastfeeding and Coronavirus
Based on information currently available, there is no reason for a mother to stop breastfeeding her child if she or the child tests positive for the virus. If mom is suspected of having the virus or if she has been diagnosed with it, she should take precautions such as washing her hands and avoiding hand-to-face contact before touching her child. Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines suggest that anyone who has coronavirus should wear a face mask if close (within 6 feet) of another person. The face mask decreases the chance of an infected person spreading the coronavirus.
Research on the coronavirus is still in the very early phases. However, based on what we know from other viruses, it is highly likely that a breastfeeding mom with the virus is producing and transmitting antibodies to her infant. These viral antibodies would decrease the child’s likelihood of contracting the virus and minimize the effects on the child if he or she became ill. For example, the coronavirus, like the flu, is a viral infection. The CDC recommends that a mother with the flu should continue to breastfeed or express milk for her child.
Expressing Breast Milk
If mom is not or does not want to feed at the breast during a quarantine, she can express breast milk by hand or use a breast pump (either electric or manual). Mothers should take the same precautions whether pumping by hand or with a pump. The mother should wash her hands, wear a face mask, and make sure that all pump parts and storage bottles are clean.
There are a few important things for breastfeeding mothers to remember. If mom is choosing to pump during this time, she should continue to pump as if she were still feeding her child to maintain her breast milk supply. For most moms, this means completely emptying her breasts of milk 8 to 12 times per day. This number may be less for older infants and toddlers. For mothers who may find pumping difficult or may see decreased production, looking at pictures or videos of your baby may help you express more milk. Consider setting a timer or an alarm on your phone to remind you that it is time to pump again.
Breastfeeding and Stress
Stress can decrease a mom’s breast milk supply. It may also affect a mom’s ability to express milk using a pump. A time of quarantine and isolation may be stressful. Continue to feed your child and eliminate stressors that are under mom’s control.
This article is based on information available as of March 12, 2020.