Breastfeeding During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Breastfeeding has many proven health benefits. My favorite one? The immune system boost and sharing of mom’s antibodies.
When a mother comes into contact with germs, she develops antibodies to help her fight off the infection. These are passed to the baby in breast milk. As mothers and babies are usually exposed to similar germs, this means the baby is protected. Breastfed babies have fewer infections and get better more quickly than formula-fed babies. (However, breastfeeding cannot protect your baby from serious, life-threatening infections like polio, diphtheria or measles.)
In general, except for a few very specific and important circumstances, breastfeeding is still recommended even when a mother is sick, because it allows her to pass on antibodies to her baby, thus helping protect her child against the illness.
Since COVID-19 is still so new, we have very limited information; however, the CDC has released Guidance on Breastfeeding and Caring for Newborns if You Have COVID-19 based on what is known thus far. To date, COVID-19 has not been detected in the breast milk of women infected; however it is not yet known if it can be transferred through breast milk. The bigger concern at the moment is not whether a baby will catch COVID-19 through breastmilk, but rather whether an infected mother can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets while interacting with her baby–for example, while breastfeeding. Therefore, it is vital that mothers continue to take all possible precautions including washing hands before touching the infant and, if she believes she may be at risk for carrying COVID-19, she may even want to wear a mask while breastfeeding her infant. And now, it is more important than ever to take all proper measures to clean and sterilize parts, bottles, and accessories–regardless of whether a mother is using breast milk or formula.
Ultimately, whether and how to start or continue breastfeeding should be determined by the mother in coordination with her family and healthcare providers.
CDC.gov and pregnancybirthbaby.org