COVID-19 and BREASTFEEDING
Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) has changed the lives of millions of people throughout the world. We've all learned about social distancing and staying at home to stop the spread of this contagious virus. But, what about breastfeeding a child? Parents are sure to have many questions! Let's look at some Q&A.
Q: What the heck is COVID-19?
A: Simply put, it is a viral infection similar to influenza "the flu". One big difference is that COVID-19 is a new or "novel" virus so no one has immunity to it nor do we have a cure or a vaccine yet. The first case in the United States was in January 2020 and to date 400,000 Americans have been infected and 12,900 have sadly lost their lives. Symptoms of COVID-19 infection can range from mild to severe and may include fever, cough and/or shortness of breath. The virus is spread from person to person by respiratory droplets in the infected person's cough or sneeze. Covering your cough and sneeze is crucial.
Q: Is it safe to breastfeed my baby?
A: Generally, yes! As of yet, no studies have shown that COVID-19 can be passed through breastmilk. Actually, there are very few situations where breastfeeding is not safe, for example alcohol abuse. In fact, breast milk is loaded with immune cells that will protect the baby from many infectious diseases. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) agree that breastfeeding should continue and be supported during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the appropriate sanitary precautions.
Q: I am infected with COVID-19. How do I keep my baby safe?
A: As always, anyone who handles the baby must wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%-90% alcohol. The infected mom should wear a mask while breastfeeding or holding the infant. Always cover your cough/sneeze and do not touch your face with your hands. If using a breast pump, be sure to have clean hands before touching the pump parts and follow manufacturer's guidelines for thoroughly cleaning the pump after each use. If other caregivers are available and healthy, the infected mom should be isolated from the infant except for feedings and skin-to-skin time.
Q: What about my older children?
A: Teach your children good hand hygiene, as described above. Also, teach kids to always "cover your cough or sneeze" with a tissue that gets thrown away or to cough/sneeze into their arm or elbow, never into their hands. Keep kids separate from any infected person. People should avoid touching their face, especially their nose, mouth and eyes. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces and objects (e.g. tables, countertops, light switches, door knobs and cabinet handles).
Q: My milk supply is well established and abundant. I would like to know more about donating milk to infants in need.
A: Donated human breast milk is an amazing gift, and it is even more important during times of crisis. Donors are screened for medical and lifestyle risk factors, and blood tests are done for HIV, HTLV, syphilis and Hepatitis B and C. The milk is pasteurized, which kills many viruses and bacteria. If you would like to know more please visit The Human Milk Banking Association of North America
We hope you have found this information helpful. If you have questions feel free to contact us! info@LactationAssociatesOfStAugustine.com or contact your health care provider.