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Breastfeeding and the Coronavirus 19: What We Know (Today)

Updated: Mar 13, 2020

Along with the rest of the country and world, Morning Star Moms is keeping close tabs on COVID-19 and I want to ensure you that I am following the recommendations set forth by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The health and wellness of our community is critically important to me so I want to provide the latest information to help keep you, your families, new babies and young children healthy, while still providing supportive breastfeeding care. Information with facts can empower us all to be prepared, so we can make informed decisions without fear or anxiety.

It is important to understand how respiratory viruses like influenza and COVID-19 are spread and what we all can do to help decrease or minimize transmission. I have presented the latest information that I have learned here, but I will also endorse a disclaimer from the National Perinatal Association in this rapidly changing environment: “The global picture of COVID-19 is a fluid, evolving situation and although we will endeavor to stay as updated as possible, the information posted here may not reflect the latest news and practice guidance.”

Remote Visits Are an Option

As we all navigate this novel experience and recommendations to avoid social contact, especially in groups, I would like to emphasize that I offer remote consultations as well as in-home lactation visits. If you have concerns about meeting in person, or if you have cold/flu symptoms, we can schedule a phone or video conference consultation. While in-person visits are best for working through difficult breastfeeding situations, we may be able to address some of your questions remotely. Please feel free to call me to discuss how we can best serve you! You can reach me directly at: 303.902.9025.

What do we know about respiratory viruses and breastfeeding?

Breastmilk protects agains many different viruses and bacteria. So, it’s important to start breastfeeding as soon after birth as possible, and continue for as long as possible to protect your baby with ongoing immunity. If breastfeeding or chestfeeding is not possible, expressing your milk and giving it to your baby is the next best thing!

Many maternal and child organizations are offering guidance on safe breastfeeding with what we know about this new virus. The National Perinatal Association (FaceBook Page: “Coronavirus: What you need to know about COVID-19”) and CDC just published guidelines this week on breastfeeding with COVID-19 or other infectious illnesses. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine also published a statement on 3/10/2020 about breastfeeding and COVID-19. A webinar presented by the CDC Clinician Outreach and Communication Activity-COCA committee on 3/12/2020, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Update—Information for Clinicians Caring for Children and Pregnant Women” emphasizes the following points:

  • Breastmilk provides protection against many illnesses. (There are only rare exceptions when breastfeeding or giving expressed breastmilk is not recommended—your healthcare provider is the best source for further information.)

  • The most common symptoms people with COVID-19 experience are: fever, cough, body aches, fatigue and shortness of breath. These symptoms might also indicate illness from other respiratory infections like influenza and the common cold. While there is a wide variation of symptoms, from mild to severe, most of the younger people who are infected have more mild symptoms.

  • So far, amniotic fluid, cord blood, placenta samples and breastmilk have all tested negative for the viral RNA of COVID-10. Experts agree that all current knowledge about COVID-19 shows that breastmilk does not transmit this virus.

  • The CDC recommends that a mother with flu continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breastmilk to her infant. If a mother has been diagnosed with COVID-19 at the time of baby’s birth, it will be up to her and her physicians to determine whether the mom and baby should be separated or if they can remain together in the same room. This decision is made on a case-by-case basis.

The flu and other respiratory viruses like COVID-19 are spread mainly through close personal contact and airborne droplets (like coughing and sneezing). The best ways to prevent giving or receiving these viruses right now are by:

  • #1: WASHING YOUR HANDS frequently with soap and water (rub hands together vigorously, get soap under your rings, for at least 20 seconds). If soap and water are not available, you can also use a hand sanitizer that is made from at least 60% alcohol.

  • Wash hands before touching your infant, expressing breastmilk by hand or by pumping.

  • Wash hands before eating/drinking.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash, or use your inner elbow or sleeve, then wash your hands.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

  • Stay home if you’re sick, and keep your children home if they are sick.

  • Consider avoiding or limiting crowded public places you visit with your baby, keep your baby close to you when out and about.

  • You may want to temporarily refrain from shaking hands or hugging or sharing food/drinks.

  • Avoid people who are sick and don’t permit anyone who is sick to visit your new baby.

  • Clean surfaces and other frequently-touched areas in your home like light switches, handles, faucets, and personal items such as cell phones, using regular household products.

  • It is safe to breastfeed and hold your baby if you or another family member has the common cold, just avoid coughing or breathing directly into your baby’s face and wash your hands frequently. You do not need to wear a mask or avoid contact with your baby if you have not been diagnosed with these respiratory viruses and if you are not sick! Again, your breastmilk is the best thing for your baby because your body is making antibodies against the illness you have, and these antibodies are passed to your baby through your milk.

  • Care for yourself and treat yourself well. Eat as healthy as you can, rest as much as you can, and get fresh air from outside, to keep your immune system strong.

  • If you are a breastfeeding mother with confirmed/diagnosed COVID-19 or if you are under investigation for COVID-19 (have been exposed by another person who has been diagnosed), it is critical you talk with your healthcare provider. Specific care for this condition is addressed in the guidelines link above.

What I do to protect you:

  • I always wash my hands before working with you or handling your baby. I may also wash my hands multiple times throughout our visit.

  • I wear gloves when touching or coming into contact with your milk, or any other body fluid.

  • I will not visit you if I am sick. I also appreciate a “head’s up” from you if you think you are sick, or get sick right after we have visited together.

  • I clean my equipment after each home visit (including my phone, my iPad, my scale, my pen, and anything else that I use at our consultation.

Your health and the health of your family is paramount to me! I believe breastfeeding is a foundation for health and we can find ways to work together to support your breastfeeding goals and stay well during these extraordinary times. The wise words of infectious disease specialist, Dr. Abdhu Sharkawy in Toronto, Canada can guide our path through this:

"Facts not fear. Clean hands. Open hearts. Our children will thank us for it."

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