You are taking every possible precaution to protect yourself and your near and dears from coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. You are properly following government recommendations including washing your hands and social distancing. But, what if you’re breastfeeding during this particular time?
Luckily, protecting babies is similar to protecting adults, including breastfeeding babies. However, this disease is new and scientists are still researching and learning about it. But, so far experts say that it’s quite safe to breastfeed your little ones. But, this situation needs some extra care and precautions, particularly if you have any growing symptoms of this COVID-19 disease.
Does SARS-CoV-2 virus pass into breast milk?
Although, researches are still ongoing but till now there is no evidence that supports SARS-CoV-2 virus in breast milk. There are only 2 case studies, which is very less to draw conclusions. These case studies showed that virus was not found in breast milk of any women who become infected with COVID-19 in their last trimester. Both babies were healthy and born without any infection. Both mothers avoided physical contact with babies and also isolated themselves till the time they recovered. Scientists are still learning about this virus and more studies are needed to draw a proper conclusion. Talk to your doctor before feeding your baby if you have any symptoms of COVID-19.
What are the basic guidelines for breastfeeding during COVID-19?
If you are breastfeeding your baby, then you must keep it going. But there are some particular guidelines to protect your child during this pandemic. We know that SARS-CoV-2 spreads through small droplets in air when an infected person sneezes, speaks or coughs. In fact, SARS-CoV-2 moves into nose before causing symptoms in individuals. Unfortunately, a COVID-19 infected person can pass this virus before getting any symptoms or some may never have any symptoms but are infected. While we know that this virus cannot be passed through breast milk, but it can be transmitted through drops from your nose and mouth or by touching your baby after coming in contact.
So, it is very crucial to follow basic guidelines if you think you might be exposed to this virus or you have any COVID-19 symptoms.
Wear a mask
You must be used to wear mask while going out, but what if you breastfeed your baby?
Yes, you should always wear a mask while breastfeeding. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms or you think that you might get infected, wear a mask. For extra safety, wear it even if don’t have any symptoms. Also, wear a mask while talking, changing, or holding your child. This might get uncomfortable for you and your child but it will surely prevent this virus.
Wash your hands
Wash your hands properly before and after touching your little one or even sanitize bottle or any baby item before handing over to them. This step is necessary to prevent the baby from infection.
Pump breast milk
Try a method called as pump your breast milk and let other family members feed your little one. This is a temporary method. Just clean your hands and skin area where breast pump touches. Sterile the bottle properly by placing it in hot water and keep on doing it in between the feedings.
Disinfect and clean surfaces where you might have touched with alcohol-based cleaner including changing tables, countertops, clothes, and bottles. Clean all those surfaces too which you haven’t touched but those places might have airdrops on them. Carefully disinfect everything which might touch your little one. This virus survives for around 48 to 72 hours on some surfaces.
Always keep around baby formula
If you feel infected or sick or have any COVID-19 symptom, then don’t feed your baby just keep baby formula ready along with sterile bottles and with it to the baby.
Does breast milk give any immunity to babies?
Breast milk provides several superpowers to your baby including protection against various kinds of illness. This milk not only satisfies your baby’s hungry stomach but also provides them automatic immunity (temporary) to fight against some viruses and bacteria. And till the time baby grows up they had all the required vaccinations to protect themselves from illness.
In research on different kinds of coronavirus found antibodies in breast milk. Antibodies are small soldiers that find for germ and get rid of it even before they try to harm you. Body makes antibodies when a person contracts a disease and gets vaccine related to it. Scientists are still researching if body can make antibodies for SARS-CoV-2 and pass it through breastfeeding. If body can, that means if you are infected through coronavirus, you will be able to protect your child against this virus just by feeding.
What is the risk of breastfeeding during this time?
Firstly contact your doctor. They will tell you if you can feed your baby or not, they might suggest you for pumped breast milk if you’re on any COVID-19 medication. There is still no treatment for COVID-19, it is an evolving situation. Not every drug is considered as good treatment having lactation data which means that researchers are not sure about any antiviral drugs that can pass through mother to child through breast milk. Also, some medication makes it difficult to breastfeed as they slow down your milk production. If you have severe symptoms of COVID-19, then don’t feed your baby. You also need energy to recover from the infection.
What does following precautions look like? Without even sacrificing your bonding
After you self-isolate yourself to protect your loved ones, some things are actually very different including breastfeeding your baby. This situation is temporary and everything will fall back to normal. Now, here how breastfeeding or bottle feeding looks like.
You hear your baby stirring in crib and you know that he/she is about to cry for milk but you take 5-10 minutes to properly wash your hands with soap and warm water. You carefully cover your face with a mask. You put on sterile gloves and open baby’s room door. Now, you take of the gloves without touching anything. You smile and carefully pick up your child and then your baby snuggles and she/he is ready to eat. You avoid touching your face or nose or baby’s face and nose. You avoid touching your phone as it would increase risk of infection. You relax with your little one and feed him/ her in a peaceful manner. This is the best a mother and her baby can enjoy. You should not miss your bonding with your baby while taking all the precautions.
Experts say that breastfeeding is safe during COVID-19 pandemic. According to health organization, mother infected with COVID-19 can feed her baby. But plenty of information is limited to this new virus. More research is needed and many advice is conflicting. Like doctors in china recommend not to breastfeed to a mother who got infected with this virus or any women who have any related symptoms.
Contact your doctor, if you are infected with COVID-19 or you are exposed to someone infected with this virus or you show some symptoms. You can pump breast milk till the time you feel safe for your baby.