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Can COVID-19 Spread Through Breastfeeding?

by Premier Hospitals | July 11, 2020 |

Breast milk is the best food source for babies and protects them from diseases. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding exclusively in the first six months of a baby's life, followed by a gradual introduction of semi-solid and solid food through a process called weaning. Breastfeeding and weaning is a complex and necessary process for a child's development. If the mother falls ill during this time, interference can occur. Breast milk is not sterile and contains nutrients and microorganisms found in the mother's body and skin. One of the main reasons for breastfeeding is to feed all the mother's antibodies to the baby, which protects them until all vaccinations are given. Stopping breastfeeding can cause a reduction in the supply of milk, the refusal of babies to breastfeed and a reduction in the protective immune factors contained in breast milk. But mothers will worry and wonder whether coronavirus can be transmitted through breast milk and what they can do to protect themselves and their babies. But what if you get sick during COVID 19 times and are worried about passing the disease to your baby? Should you stop breastfeeding until you recover and start weaning early? Here's this article that will help with what you need to know provided by Premier Hospital. What are the coronavirus and symptoms? Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is a new virus strain which was found in Wuhan, China, in 2019. COVID-19 belongs to the family of Coronaviruses (CoV). These viruses are known to cause diseases ranging from the common cold to more severe illnesses, such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) and Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV). Common signs of infection include fever, cough, runny nose, shortness of breath and difficulty in breathing. Pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death in more severe cases of COVID -19., infection Standard recommendations for preventing the spread of infection include washing your hands regularly, covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with people who have symptoms of respiratory problems such as coughing and sneezing. How does COVID-19 affect pregnant women? Are pregnant women more prone to this disease? There is not much scientific information about this problem because this disease is still very new. Pregnant women experience immunological and physiological changes that make them more susceptible to viral respiratory infections. And there are instances in the world many women have delivered babies during this season with Covid-19 affected. Data has to be established. Does COVID-19 transmit through breastfeeding? So far, no active COVID-19 has been found in the breast milk of mothers with COVID-19 confirmed or suspected. Therefore, COVID-19 cannot be transmitted through breastfeeding, as revealed by a mother confirmed/suspected of COVID-19. Researchers continue to test breast milk from mothers with COVID-19 confirmed/suspected. Transmission of COVID-19 through breastfeeding has not been established. Among the few cases of COVID-19 infection confirmed in children from other sources, most survived only from mild illness or no symptoms. While breastfeeding, the mother must still take appropriate hygiene steps, including wearing medical masks, to reduce the chance of COVID-19 droplets spreading to her baby. Can you still breastfeed if you have COVID-19?

  • Yes, babies can still be breastfed even though you have got tested positive for COVID-19. Pump or express your milk after carefully cleaning your breasts and arms and that a healthy nurse gives your baby the expressed milk.
  • It is also essential to clean the breast pump after each use. Follow the CDC instructions for recommendations on proper cleaning and disinfection.
  • Remind all caregivers to wash their hands thoroughly before touching the bottle or feeding or caring for your baby. If you want to breastfeed directly, take all the steps recommended to prevent the possibility of spreading the virus, including the use of a mask and careful hygiene of the breasts and hands.
  • High-quality evidence shows that breastfeeding reduces infant, and child mortality, even in resource-intensive conditions, and promotes health and lifelong development in all geographical and economic conditions. 
Precautions for sick breastfeeding mothers:- The main concern is not whether the virus is transmitted through breast milk, but whether infected mothers can transmit the virus through breath drops during breastfeeding, especially when coughing or sneezing. A mother with confirmed COVID-19 or asymptomatic person must take all possible precautions to prevent the virus from spreading to her baby, including washing her hands before touching the baby and, if possible, wearing a face mask. Even though the baby is not breastfed, the mother must wash her hands before and after pumping. Precautions to be taken while expressing milk:
  • The surface of the table used for pumping must be cleaned with disinfectant.
  • The outside of the pump must be cleaned before and after pumping according to the manufacturer's instructions. For this use a basin that is only used for cleaning and rinsing baby products.
  • Pumping devices can be safely cleaned with a dishwasher if the dishwasher is safe.
  • Pump parts must be disinfected at least once a day according to instructions with a steam bag, boil for five minutes or in a dishwasher with disinfection settings.
  • Pump parts should not be placed directly in the sink and must be cleaned as soon as possible after pumping.
  • Pump parts must be placed on a clean plate or paper towel and allowed to dry before storing.
  • Clean the sink and brush the bottle (if used) thoroughly with soap and water after each use, or clean it in the dishwasher if it is safe and air dry.
What are the hygiene recommendations for nursing mothers who are confirmed/suspected of having COVID-19? If a mother is confirmed/suspected to have COVID-19, you must: 
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, especially before touching the baby. 
  • Wear a medical mask when feeding. 
    • As soon as it is wet remove the mask immediately
    • Don't use the mask again
    • Don't touch the front of the mask but loosen it from the back.
  • Sneeze or cough into a handkerchief and rub your hands with alcohol or rewash your hands with soap and clean water. 
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly.
  • Also, clean surfaces that look dirty or dirty that your baby might touch.
  • Practice physical distance, avoid public spaces and stay 6 meters away from the others if possible. 
Conclusion: Understandably, young mothers may have questions about what is best for their newborn during the COVID-19 pandemic. So go through this article, and become knowledgeable about breastfeeding in COVID -19 times. Talk to your paediatrician about how to keep your baby healthy and what resources are available in your community to help you. Paediatrician team from Premier Hospital is here to help you. For more information on breastfeeding contact Premier Hospital at +91-77020 01163.