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Bright Futures

Articles and Updates from Phoenix Children's

April 13, 2020, Kirkilas, Gary, DO ,
Is Breastfeeding During COVID-19 Safe?


feeding baby a bottle

Breastfeeding is one of the best ways mothers can feed their newborns. Not only does breastfeeding provide excellent nutrition, but it also allows mothers to pass protective immunity to their infants through breastmilk. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many mothers are wondering if anything should change regarding their breastfeeding practices, especially if they themselves are known carriers of COVID-19.

Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have recently come out with recommendations for COVID-19 positive mothers breastfeeding their newborns. The good news is there have been no reports of COVID-19 being found in breastmilk to date. With this knowledge, mothers are encouraged to continue feeding their newborns breastmilk even if they are COVID-19 positive.

The difficult decision COVID-19 positive mothers face is how to safely deliver breastmilk to their newborns. A newborn’s immature immune system places them at a higher risk of having a more severe course of COVID-19 should they get it, although this is still a rare occurrence. Therefore, the AAP has recommended COVID-19 positive mothers separate themselves from their newborns after delivery. Once a mother and her newborn are discharged home, they should continue to social distance (6 feet) themselves until the mother: 1) has no fevers for 72 hours without use of any fever reducers (Tylenol/Ibuprofen, etc.) and, 2) seven days have passed since the onset of the mother’s symptoms. On the other hand, the WHO does not recommend separation of babies from COVID-19 positive mothers, but instead simply encourages mothers to use a medical mask (if having respiratory symptoms) and practice good hand hygiene while breastfeeding.  

If a mother chooses to separate herself from her baby, it’s important to note mothers are still encouraged to pump breastmilk and provide it to their newborn by a non-infected caregiver. Many newborn mothers will find it difficult to adhere to social distancing during such a joyous time, but they should realize the separation is only temporary and they can still nourish their newborn. If a mother chooses not to, or is unable to, distance herself, it’s important she use a mask and practice good hand hygiene. It’s also important to know these are the initial recommendations and they may change as we learn more about COVID-19.

If you don’t have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, shortness of breath), then, of course, still breastfeed as usual. If you do have those symptoms, please reach out to your primary care physician office and notify them you are breastfeeding an infant and should find out your COVID-19 status.

If you have any questions regarding breastfeeding or your infant’s health, Phoenix Children’s pediatricians are available via our new telemedicine system. You can see and speak with your regular pediatrician (including lactation services) via a video chat visit right from the comfort of your own home. Your pediatrician can do many of the same things through telemedicine as an in-person visit such as order medications and labs, review labs and perform a modified physical exam. You may also reach us by phone at 602-933-0495.

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