As with so many other elements of the coronavirus, we are working with limited information on breastfeeding.
According to available data thus far, the coronavirus has not been detected in infected women’s breastmilk (the CDC still notes that “we do not know for sure” if breastmilk can transmit COVID-19, but says it is “unlikely”).
Note: studies are getting underway to explore: 1) whether it is possible to transmit COVID-19 through breastmilk, and 2) whether breastmilk has any capacity to protect against COVID-19.
OB/GYNs are generally not seeing problems with infected babies, and the consensus thus far is that you can and should still breastfeed (or continue to) if that was/is your plan.
Most health experts (ranging from individual health professionals to organizations like La Leche League, the AAP, and the American Academy of Breastfeeding), are encouraging mothers with COVID-19 to continue (or start) breastfeeding. Since the primary mode of transmission is through breathing, they also stress the need to take extra precautions — like washing your hands for 20 to 30 seconds and wearing a mask — before/during nursing. One pediatrician from Florida told Huffpost: “It is highly likely that the infant has already been exposed to the virus by the time the diagnosis is made in the mother,” saying that there was therefore no reason to stop nursing.
Of course, it’s also entirely possible that breastfeeding’s nutritional and immunological benefits may actually be amplified given the pandemic situation we are living in right now.
La Leche League corroborates this message^^, saying that changing nursing habits on account of COVID-19 may have negative effects, like lower milk supply, emotional effects, and reduced immunological benefits from breastfeeding. Furthermore, LLL states: “when any member of the family has been exposed, the infant has been exposed. Hence, any interruption of breastfeeding may actually increase the infant’s risk of becoming ill and even of becoming severely ill.”
“Currently, the primary concern is not whether the virus can be transmitted through breastmilk, but rather whether an infected mother can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets during the period of breastfeeding.”~ The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
You guys — this sucks. So much. We are so sorry for those of you who are/may be faced with this situation and forced to make difficult decisions and/or breastfeed with a mask.
Our advice would be to talk to your doctor, follow your gut, and do what feels right for you, even if it means pumping and having a partner feed the baby. Or using formula. Because at the end of the day, we’re basically in survival mode right now. “Fed is best” really does apply here. We just need to get through this however we can.
Go forward with courage, you can do this!!!