Should mothers with symptoms of COVID-19 start or continue breastfeeding? You, along with your family and healthcare providers, should decide whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding. Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most babies. We don’t know for sure if mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus to babies in breast milk, but the current evidence suggests that this isn’t likely.
Current evidence suggests that breast milk isn’t likely to spread the virus to babies
Helpful tips for breastfeeding
You may find it harder to start or continue breastfeeding if you are not sharing a room with your newborn in the hospital. Here are some helpful tips:
- Frequent hand expression or pumping, ideally with a hospital-grade pump, will help you establish and build milk supply if you are separated from your newborn.
- Pump or feed every 2-3 hours (at least 8-10 times in 24 hours, including at night), especially in the first few days. This signals the breasts to produce milk and prevents blocked milk ducts and breast infections.
- If you are unable to establish milk production in the hospital after birth, or have to temporarily stop breastfeeding during your COVID-19 illness because you do not feel well enough, get help from a lactation support provider. Learn more about relactation.
- You should always wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds before breastfeeding or expressing breast milk even if you don’t have COVID-19. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
If you have COVID-19 and choose to breastfeed
- Wash your hands beforehand
- Wear a mask while breastfeeding
If you have COVID-19 and choose to express breast milk
- Use a dedicated breast pump (not shared).
- Wear a mask during expression and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use, cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk.
- Consider having a healthy caregiver who does not have COVID-19, is not at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and is living in the same home feed the expressed breast milk to the baby. Any caregiver feeding the baby should wear a mask when caring for the baby for the entire time you are in isolation and for two weeks after you completed isolation.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019