By Lisle Cole, Certified Lactation Specialist (CLS), BS, MBA, Breastfeeding Counselor
As we celebrate National Breastfeeding Month in the midst of a pandemic, Mary’s Center is here to answer questions parents may have about breastfeeding and COVID-19.
Why should I breastfeed?
Breastfeeding has many benefits for both mom and baby. For mothers, breastfeeding promotes quicker weight loss post-partum and it lowers the risk of anemia, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and breast and ovarian cancers.
Because breast milk is packed with important antibodies and bioactive cells, infants who are exclusively breastfed have a lower risk of developing asthma, ear infections, type 1 diabetes, and gastrointestinal infections (e.g., diarrhea and vomiting).
Do I need to be separated from my baby if I have COVID-19?
No, we have had many mothers concerned about this, but according to recent American Academy of Pediatrics findings, moms with COVID-19 can stay with their babies and breastfeed.
How can I safely breastfeed if I have COVID-19?
Studies have not found evidence of COVID-19 in breast milk, but COVID-19 can still be spread through respiratory droplets.
If you choose to breastfeed, you should wear a cloth face covering while breastfeeding and wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before each feeding.
What if I am too sick to breastfeed?
If you are unable to breastfeed directly due to severe illness, then you can use a breast pump to express your milk, or you can stop breastfeeding and work with a lactation specialist to resume when possible.
If you choose to express breast milk, we recommend that you follow the CDC guidelines:
- Use a dedicated breast pump (not shared).
- Wear a cloth face covering 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.
- If possible, arrange for expressed breast milk to be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver who does not have COVID-19, is not at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and is living in the same home.
Breastfeeding is the ideal form of nutrition for babies’ health, growth, and development, but each mother and baby is unique. Especially with the pandemic, it’s best to work closely with dedicated professionals to ensure everyone’s safety.
At Mary’s Center, you can find support from WIC breastfeeding counselors, doctors, and nutritionists. Click here to make an appointment.
You can also access free 24/7 maternal and pediatric experts through the Pacify app.