Is it Safe to Breastfeed if a Mother is COVID-19 Positive?

Renee Bowling RN, Lactation Consultant

Every day scientists are learning more about COVID-19. So please, as you read the following on breastfeeding during the pandemic, always talk to your doctor for the latest and most up to date information. Many decisions are being made on a case to case basis.

Can I Still Breastfeed?

All International World Health guidelines agree that moms who have tested positive or are suspected of being positive should still breastfeed, if possible, during the COVID-19 pandemic.  We do not know for certain whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk, but the limited data available suggest this is not likely to be a source of transmission. More likely would be the close contact a mother has with her infant, resulting in infection by droplets.

What Precautions Should I Take?

For mothers who are positive for COVID-19 or are at risk, special precautions are recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends parents who test positive for the novel coronavirus avoid caring for the baby until certain health parameters are met. A healthy, low-risk person should take responsibility for the caring and feeding of the baby using the mother’s expressed breastmilk if possible.

While much is still unknown about COVID-19, we do know that the virus is primarily spread person to person and mainly through respiratory droplets (liquid from the lungs – spread through the air). If you choose to breastfeed directly, and the risks and benefits have been explained by a health care provider, we recommend that in addition to washing hands thoroughly with soap and water, you should also wear a mask when near your infant until you are certain you are not contagious.

Everyone needs to practice good hand hygiene. Anyone who holds the baby needs to wash their hands with soap and water before touching the baby.

Can I Still Pump?

Yes, you can still pump. The following guidelines are recommended for pumping.

Wash your hands meticulously for at least 20 seconds. Choose soap and water using good handwashing technique overhand sanitizer if at all possible. There are multiple videos online that demonstrate proper handwashing – we like this one from the CDC.

Wash your hands before you use the breast pump, before and after storing the milk. Disinfect the outside of the pump before and after you use it. Designate a certain basin and brush that will only be used to clean pump parts. Take apart and wash all pump parts with hot soapy water per manufacturer instruction after each pumping session. Disinfect all pump parts and the basin and brush used for cleaning once per day. Allow the pump parts to air dry. Once the parts are dry, store them in a closed container.

What Breastfeeding Support is Available for Me?

As always if you are experiencing breastfeeding difficulties consider using the services of a lactation consultant.  The Motherhood Center is offering lactation consultations with in-person and virtual visits over video chat.

For in-home visits, we are taking precautions to keep everyone safe. We will be masked, wearing gloves, and also conscious of handling the baby as little as possible. We also request that the mother and anyone else in the home be masked as well.

Please call (713)963-8880 extension 113 to speak to a consultant.

These are trying times for everyone and even more so for new moms and families. Parents may be separated from their extended family members who normally would be there to support and help them. Post-partum services are a good alternative to support new parents who are not able to be with their families right now.

New mothers may have increased emotional and mental support needs right now.  If you are in need of help, reach out to the Center for Post-Partum health at (713) 561-3884.

Please stay safe and we can get through this together.  Let us know if you need any assistance. Always contact your health care physician for any medical care and guidance, especially as information is rapidly changing during this pandemic as more information becomes available.