Can a baby get COVID-19 through breastmilk?

Does a COVID-19 infection on your part put your nursing baby at risk?

Pregnant women are actually much likelier to become severely ill from a COVID infection than non-pregnant women. Breastfeeding women and others who have recently given birth may also be vulnerable to this same fate. What risk does a COVID infection pose to your child, though?

Can a breastfeeding mother transmit a COVID infection to her baby? Is COVID-19 expressed through breastmilk at all? Here’s what you need to know if you’re a new mother.

Is it safe to breastfeed when you’re COVID-positive?

SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen responsible for causing COVID-19, has not been found in breastmilk in a clinical setting at the time of this writing. This study actually encourages breastfeeding women to continue breastfeeding as normal, even after testing positive.

Another bit of good news: if you catch COVID while pregnant, your baby’s risk of infection in utero is extremely low. If you get infected during your third trimester, your baby has a 3.2% chance of being born with an active COVID infection.

This is great news for any new mother hoping to power through a case of COVID without disrupting her baby’s schedule and development. With these findings in mind, exercising some caution is advisable after becoming ill.

You can still transmit the COVID virus to your infant just like you would to any other person. Here’s how you can prevent that from happening.

Best practices for breastfeeding with COVID-19

Breastfeeding is unlikely to infect your child—coughing while holding them, however, might. Here are a few quick tips for new mothers with COVID that may help prevent a new infection:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly before and after interacting with your baby
  • Wear a mask while nursing, holding your child, or playing with them
  • Be sure to cough away from your child to avoid spraying saliva droplets in their vicinity
  • Sanitize your breast pump and accessories thoroughly before and after using them—keeping your breast and nipple area clean is also important, although we probably didn’t have to tell you that

It may be hard for women with a very young newborn to self-isolate completely, but if your partner or family can step in while you’re sick, we encourage you to take it easy for a few days as you recover. 

Breastfeeding during those early weeks and months is nothing you should feel like you need to compromise on, however. Reach out to your attending physician for more advice if you find yourself sick during this crucial period of bonding.

COVID tips for new mothers who care

Taking care of your child is probably second nature by this point. When the answers aren’t exactly obvious, though, it never hurts to play it safe.

Lean on your support system for help, and do what you can to limit your child’s exposure to your saliva or the air you’re breathing. In many cases, it’ll be a mercifully short few days before you’re officially back in action.

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