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Breastfeeding during COVID-19. Is it safe?

You already have so many questions about your newborn. Now the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on so many more – Can mothers with the virus breastfeed? Will the breast milk contain the virus? Can it get transferred to my newborn while breastfeeding? This article answers all your questions.

Your baby gets a lot of nutrition from breast milk. So, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s natural for new mommies to want to breastfeed their babies. The good news is that breastfeeding is still safe. Studies* haven’t found the presence of the virus in breast milk, so it cannot be transferred to your baby that way. Moreover, other studies^ have found that with the right precautions, even mothers with the virus are unlikely to transmit it to their newborns through breastfeeding.

So, what are the precautions that you need to take?

The virus spreads through droplets in the air. Keeping that in mind, mothers and those around the newborn need to follow these guidelines:

  1. Wash your hands: Washing your hands before touching your baby has always been a good practice. Given the current pandemic, you need to follow this even more strictly. It doesn’t matter if you’ve gone outdoors or not. Make it a practice to wash your hands even before you handle any baby items like bottles, clothes, diapers and bedspreads.
  2. Wear a mask: If you are showing some symptoms of being infected by the virus, you must wear a mask while breastfeeding your baby, holding, changing or even talking to your baby. You can wear a mask even if you don’t have any symptoms too. While it may seem uncomfortable, remember that it will help protect your child against the virus.
  3. Regularly disinfect: Use an alcohol-based disinfectant to wipe all the surfaces you often touch, as the virus can survive on some surfaces for up to 72 hours. So, make sure to clean countertops and changing tables too. Your baby’s clothes and bottles also need to be sterilised or disinfected after every use.
  4. Use a breast pump: If you do have some symptoms of the virus, you can choose to pump your breast milk and have a family member feed your baby. This way, there’s no chance of transmission between the two of you. Before using the breast pump, make sure you wash your hands and clean any area of the skin that the breast pump will touch.
  5. Keep a box of formula ready: You don’t want to be caught off guard in case you do contract the virus. This way, your baby can continue his/her feeds without any interruption.

What if I contract the virus?

Firstly, contact your doctor who will understand the severity of the infection, and accordingly direct you. Some medication could slow down milk production, so your doctor will take that into account as well. If you have severe symptoms of the virus, it’s advised that you don’t breastfeed. Preserve your energy to help your body fight off the virus. You can turn to formula milk to ensure that your baby continues to get sufficient nutrients.

While most health experts have advised that breastfeeding is safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, remember that the virus itself is new, and a lot more research is needed. So, you must always take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and your baby safe. If you have contracted the virus, or have come in contact with someone with COVID-19, please consult your doctor immediately.

Reference link:
healthline.com/health/breastfeeding/coronavirus-breastfeeding
*academic.oup.com/cid/advance-article/doi/10.1093/cid/ciaa226/5809260
^thelancet.com/journals/lanchi/article/PIIS2352-4642(20)30235-2/fulltext

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