What New Moms Need to Know About Breastfeeding and COVID-19

It may still be possible to breastfeed, with the proper precautions.
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
Mar 2020
mom breastfeeding her baby at home on the couch

With so little still known about COVID-19, new parents and the healthcare professionals that support them, are bound to have questions about how the virus may impact newborns. One of the biggest questions parents of newborns have? How COVID-19 may impact breastfeeding. Now, Medela, the popular breast pump brand, is recruiting its experts to help answer some questions through a webinar.

In the webinar, titled COVID-19 Breastfeeding and Pregnancy: Fact versus Fiction, Kristen Kelley, MPH, CIC, RN-BSN, FAPIC and an infection preventionist, goes through the current UNICEF and CDC guidelines on how to provide breast milk when COVID-19 is confirmed. Below, the key takeaways on what you need to know.

Symptomatic Moms Can Continue Breastfeeding With Precautions

According to UNICEF, considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breast milk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, moms can continue to breastfeed if they are symptomatic for COVID-19, while taking the necessary precautions. These include wearing a mask when near baby (including during feeding), washing hands before and after contact with baby and cleaning and disinfected any surfaces that may be contaminated.

Follow Pump Cleaning Protocols

For moms who plan to breastfeed, expressing breast milk should be encouraged to help establish and maintain milk supply. After each pumping session, all parts that came into contact with the breast milk should be thoroughly washed and the entire pump should be disinfected, per the manufacturer’s instructions, the CDC states. The expressed breast milk should be fed to baby by a healthy caregiver.

Newborns May Need to Be Separated From Mothers to Prevent Disease Transmission

The CDC states that a symptomatic mother who has just given birth should be temporarily separated from her newborn by the facility to reduce the risk of transmission until the mother’s transmission-based precautions are discontinued. The risks and benefits of the separation should be discussed with the mom by her healthcare team.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), close contact is essential for new moms and their babies and that includes exclusive breastfeeding, if that’s what both mom and baby want. If you’ve tested positive for COVID-19, WHO says it’s alright for mom and baby to have skin to skin contact as long as proper precautions are taken and good respiratory hygiene is practiced.

If you’re a new parent trying to navigate these uncertain times, know there are resources out there that can help. For the time being, Medela is offering extended live chat customer service hours (from 5 am to midnight CT Monday through Friday), as well as working with retail partners to ensure their products are available for pick-up and home delivery (as well as taking precautions to minimize personal contact among operators and external personnel during shipment). To learn more about breastfeeding in relation to COVID-19, Medela has set up an FAQ page, but you can also find great resources on the WHO, CDC and UNICEF websites.

Looking for more information on how COVID-19 may impact your pregnancy or newborn? We asked experts for some answers.

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