Updated: Mar 25, 2020
Our world is in a constant state of flux. Every day there is new information about the COVID-19 pandemic. The good news is that there are organizations that are helping to provide accurate, evidence-informed recommendations to guide clinical care and help inform families, so you make decisions to keep your family healthy.
This past week, organizations such as the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the Canadian Association of Perinatal and Women's Health Nurses (CAPWHN), have all provided recommendations for breastfeeding based on what is known from the Center for Disease Control and the Government of Canada. The following recommendations are for moms who are symptomatic and believe they may have COVID-19.
1) Spread of COVID-19 from mom to babe through amniotic fluid or breastmilk
Currently, there is here has been no evidence of the spread of the virus from mom to babe for COVID-19 or other previous coronaviruses (i.e. SARS). There have been studies looking at the spread of the virus from a mom to her baby through the solution surrounding the baby during pregnancy (amniotic fluid), placenta, and breastmilk (1, 2). They found no evidence of the virus being spread to the baby.
Spread of COVID-19 from mom to baby in pregnancy: no evidence
Spread of COVID-19 from mom to baby through breastmilk: no evidence
2) Spread of COVID-19 from mom to babe through contact/droplets
Since there is no evidence of spreading the virus through breastmilk, the main concern is if a mother who is symptomatic or confirmed to have COVID-19 can spread the virus through contact or droplets (i.e. coughing, sneezing) while breastfeeding. The following are the recommendations from the Center for Disease Control. If you are a mother who is symptomatic or confirmed to have COVID-19 these are the recommended steps to take to help prevent the spread of the virus to your baby(3).
For breastfeeding, these steps include:
washing your hands before picking up or holding your infant; and
wearing a face mask while breastfeeding, if possible.
If you are pumping or expressing breastmilk:
wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts;
follow the recommended steps for cleaning breast pumps after each use;
if possible, ask someone who is feeling well to feed the expressed milk to your baby.
Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants (3), but there are still a lot of things we don't know about COVID-19. Your decision of whether and how you wish to start or continue feeding your baby should be discussed with your family and health care provider.
The number one way to stop the spread of infections, like COVID-19 is to wash your hands, often!
Yudin MH, Steele DM, Sgro MD, et al. Severe acute respiratory syndrome in pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol, 2005; 105:124-7.
Chen H, Guo J, Wang C, et al. Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. Lancet; 2020; 395: 809–15 http://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30360-3
Center for Disease Control. Pregnancy & Breastfeeding: Information about Coronavirus Disease 2019. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prepare/pregnancy-breastfeeding.html?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fcoronavirus%2F2019-ncov%2Fspecific-groups%2Fpregnancy-faq.html#anchor_1584169714. Accessed on March 15, 2020).