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COVID-19 Guidance on Breastfeeding

Background

COVID-19 is a new virus that causes respiratory illness in people and can spread from person-to-person. Symptoms can include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and fever. Other symptoms can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website.

Breastmilk contains antibodies that fight infection and boost the baby's immune system. Human milk is the safest food in an emergency; it contains the proper vitamins and minerals for healthy growth (CDC, 2020 & USBC, 2020). According to the United States Breastfeeding Committee, if a mother or baby becomes ill, the best thing the mother can do is to continue breastfeeding to provide her baby with human antibodies.

If I Have COVID-19, Can I Pass It to My Baby if I Breastfeed?

It is unknown if mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus to babies in their breastmilk, but the limited data available suggests this is not likely.

What Should I Do if I Have COVID-19?

If you are confirmed to have COVID-19 or are a symptomatic patient under investigation (PUI), you should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to your baby. While the ideal setting for care of a healthy, full-term newborn during the birth hospitalization is within the mother's room, you should discuss a temporary separation from your newborn with your healthcare team if you are confirmed to have COVID-19. Decisions about temporary separation should be made with respect to your wishes. The CDC has resources on their website that could be helpful during this time.

  • If you have COVID-19 and choose to breastfeed:
  • Wear a cloth face covering while breastfeeding and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before each feeding.
  • If you have COVID-19 and choose to express breastmilk:
  • Use a dedicated breast pump (not shared);
  • Wear a cloth face covering during expression and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk;
  • Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use; and
  • If possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a health caregiver who does not have COVID-19, is not at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and is living in the same home.

Where Can I Get Help With Breastfeeding?

We understand that breastfeeding resources in your area may be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The following links will help you access statewide and county specific resources:

Additionally, the Pennsylvania Breastfeeding Referral Guide can be found here

Resources for More Information

For more information, visit the department's website and the CDC website.  

Help is available, contact the Crisis Text Line by texting PA to 741-741. 

Date created: 3/30/2020; Date updated: 7/6/2020