Yes, Breastfeeding Is Safe During COVID-19

Premier Health Now
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Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your baby. But how might COVID-19 change that? We asked Premier Health lactation consultant Maria Greene, RN, BSN, IBCLC, for advice.

Remind Me Again Why Breast Milk Is Best

There is plenty of evidence showing that breast milk boosts your baby’s immune system. It contains antibodies that lower the risk of allergies, lung and ear infections, and skin problems like eczema. Breast milk has been shown to reduce vomiting, diarrhea, and digestive problems, and it makes it less likely your baby will be obese or have diabetes as an adult.

But Is It Safe During COVID-19?

Although studies are limited, so far COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This also was the case during other virus outbreaks like SARS and MERS says Greene.

“That said, considering the many benefits that breast milk offers your baby, it seems sensible for you to do all you can to protect your baby, and that includes breastfeeding,” she adds. “Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for infants.”

Should I Take Any Special Precautions?

“At Premier Health we’re asking moms — and all caregivers, regardless of feeding style — to practice safe hand hygiene before each feeding, and if you’re expressing or pumping breast milk,” says Greene. After a pumping session, all parts of the pump that come into contact with breast milk should be washed and dried thoroughly.

"If mom has COVID-19, we recommend that she expresses her milk into a bottle,” Greene says. She notes that there is no indication that a baby can contract the virus by drinking breast milk from her infected mom.

Are There Special Advantages To Breastfeeding During COVID-19?

“We know that the best way to prevent getting COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed,” says Greene, “and that includes limiting trips to the grocery store. Because breast milk is always available, and at the right temperature, by breastfeeding you won’t need to run to the grocery for formula and risk being exposed to the virus.” The milk will provide your baby all the calories and nutrients he needs. And your antibodies will protect your baby from any viruses you’ve experienced.

Is Help Available If I Need It?

Help is always available for moms who may be struggling with breastfeeding, says Greene.

By Phone

  • Atrium Medical Center: (513) 974-5122,  8 a.m. – 4 p.m. weekdays
  • Miami Valley Hospital and Miami Valley Hospital South: (937) 208-6160, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. every day
  • Upper Valley Medical Center: (937) 440-4906, 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. weekdays

It’s OK to call even if you didn’t deliver at that particular location.

Overnight
Help from certified lactation consultants is available 24/7 by calling 1-888-588-3423. The hotline is available to anyone, and is operated by the Appalachian Breastfeeding Network.

In Person
While all Premier Health hospitals provide in-person lactation support, the clinic at Miami Valley Hospital is located away from hospital inpatients. There is no waiting area. Instead, you walk directly to a private room for your meeting. For an in-person lactation consultation call (937) 208-6160.

When Should I Ask For Help?

Breastfeeding is a natural process, but problems do occur, especially during the first few days. If you need advice, don’t hesitate to call, particularly if:

  • Your baby is not feeding well
  • Your breasts are engorged and painful
  • Your nipples are extremely sore, cracked, bleeding, or blistered
  • Your infant sucks briefly or very softly and isn’t nursing well
  • Your baby has fewer than six wet diapers or less than four stools a day after your milk volume has increased
  • Your baby’s stools are not yellow by day five
  • Your baby is unhappy, weak, tired, or not interested in nursing
  • Your baby nurses less than eight times in 24 hours and/or appears to sleep most of the day
  • You do not hear swallowing while your baby is nursing