Since the identification of severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2 or (SARC-CoV-2) or the COVID-19, it has been spreading rapidly all over the world. It has been a major threat to worldwide public health. This has also increased concerns regarding breastfeeding mother’s vulnerability and if they could transmit the infection to their newborns during breastfeeding. Read on to explore what should you know about breastfeeding during an era of COVID-19.
What Should You Know About Breastfeeding During The Era Of COVID-19?
Protecting oneself during this pandemic is quite important and most of us are following all the necessary guidelines, including washing hands properly and maintaining physical distancing wherever required. But what about breastfeeding during an era of covid-19?
Protecting your babies is quite similar to protect yourself, even when your baby is very small and is breastfeeding. Isn’t it? So, if you have any symptoms of COVID-19, then you should follow some special precautions, especially if you are breastfeeding your baby. Let us know more about it.
Does SARS-CoV-2 Pass Into Breast Milk
Researchers have still not found SARS-CoV-2 in breast milk. So, there is limited research regarding this.
There are only 2 case studies, and they are not enough to draw any conclusion. These two case studies have been reported from China that reports that the new coronavirus was not present in the breast milk of mothers who became sick with COVID-19 late in their 3rd trimester. (1)
The women had healthy babies who were not infected by the Coronavirus. The mothers avoided any type of skin contact with their infants and also isolated themselves until they completely recovered.
This was also found that coronavirus has not been found in breast milk. However, more medical studies are required in this regard. But whatever it may be, you should know about the guidelines for breastfeeding.
Guidelines For Breastfeeding
You need to keep breastfeeding your baby if you are doing so. However, below are some guidelines that should be followed by you to protect your baby during these COVID-19 conditions.
Wash Your Hands
You must wash your hands properly before touching your baby or any item of your baby, like baby’s bottle, toys, and so on. You need to wash your hands more frequently at this time.
Wear Your Mask
You should wear your mask while breastfeeding if you have any symptoms of COVID-19. Also, wear your mask while holding your baby. This might be uncomfortable for you, but you should do it to help prevent the spread of the Coronavirus infection.
Clean and properly disinfect any surface that you have touched. Use an alcohol-based cleaner to disinfect surfaces. This includes changing tables, bottles, and baby’s clothing. You should also clean surfaces that you have not touched yet that might have air droplets on them.
Take Additional Measures And Continue Breastfeeding If You Fall Sick
Mothers who have coronavirus shortly before giving birth and beginning breastfeeding or lactating, and those who got infected while breastfeeding, would produce antibodies or immune factors in their breast milk for protecting their baby and enhancing their baby’s immune responses. It means that it is best to continue breastfeeding to help fight the virus and protect your baby.
If a breastfeeding mother falls ill, having symptoms of cough, fever, or troubled breathing, then she should seek immediate medical help and follow the instructions from the doctor.
Pump Breast Milk
You must keep in mind that you should pump your milk and have any family member feed your baby if you are suffering from COVID-19. Wash your hands properly and clean any area of skin where the breast pump will touch. Also, make sure that you sterilize your baby’s bottle properly before using it.
Keep Baby Formula On Hand
If you feel ill or have any of the symptoms of COVID-19, you do not have to breastfeed your baby. Keep baby formula and well-sterilized feeding bottles on hand and use them to feed your baby.
Take Extra Care When Formula Feeding
Breastfeeding is the best food for your baby’s growth and development. However, there are many times when a mother is unable to breastfeed. In such cases, they should take the help of formula feeding. In such cases, it is important that babies are being fed as per the instructions on the packaging and, also extra care is taken while washing bottles, and any other equipment used.
Risks Of Breastfeeding During An Era Of COVID-19
Are there risks of breastfeeding during an era of COVID-19? You should talk to your doctor if you are taking specific medications for a SARC-CoV-2 infection. Your doctor might tell you not to breastfeed your baby or may tell you to give your baby pumped breast milk.
Researchers yet do not know if antiviral drugs can pass from mother to baby via breast milk.(2) Moreover, certain medications might make it quite difficult for you to breastfeed your baby, as they can slow down the production of your breast milk. So, you should check with your doctor about it.
If you are a breastfeeding mother and have severe symptoms of COVID-19, do not try to breastfeed, rather try hard to recover from the infection soon.
Can Breast Milk Help Prevent Covid-19 In Babies?
Breast milk offers your baby protection against many kinds of sicknesses. Breast milk not only helps your baby to fill their hungry stomach but also temporarily gives immunity against certain viruses and bacteria. Many soluble and cellular antimicrobial substances are present in human breast milk that contribute to the proper development and maturation of an infant’s immune system.
Osteoprotegerin is an anti-inflammatory substance present in breast milk and it has been suggested to reduce the inflammatory response by preventing TNF or tumor necrosis factor-induced inhibition of T-cells. One more anti-inflammatory substance present in human breast milk is Lactoferrin, which reduce the production of proinflammatory cytokines. These lactoferrin molecules are known to have potential anti-SARC-CoV-2 activity.
As per the medical research from the year 2001, it has been found that another kind of Coronavirus or SARC-CoV has found antibodies to it in breast milk.(3) Antibodies look for a special kind of germ and get rid of it before it can lead to any danger or cause any harm. Your body starts making antibodies when you contract an illness and when you have a vaccine for it.
However, scientists still don’t know if the body can also make antibodies for the new coronavirus or the SARC-CoV-2 and share them via breast milk.
What We Do Not Know?
We must admit that there are still a lot of things that we do not know regarding breastfeeding during an era of COVID-19. Most international health organizations have advised that breastfeeding is safe during this pandemic.
But, there is a lot of ongoing research all over the world to answer questions regarding SARS-CoV-2, which also includes breastfeeding and babies. (4) Some of these questions are:
- Can SARS-CoV-2 pass through breast milk at all? (There is only limited research in this regards)
- What if the breastfeeding mother has a lot of viruses in her body?
- Can antibodies that are meant to help protect against SARS-CoV-2 be passed from the breastfeeding mother to baby via breast milk?
- Can mothers or babies get infected with coronavirus more than once?
- Can the babies get a coronavirus infection from pregnant mothers while they are still in their mother’s womb?
It has been advised by most health experts that breastfeeding is safe during an era of COVID-19. According to some health organizations, it has been mentioned that mothers who have symptoms of COVID-19 might still be able to breastfeed their babies. However, currently, there are lots of things still unknown about the new coronavirus.
You should always consult with your doctor and your baby’s pediatrician if you have COVID-19 or have any symptoms of COVID-19 and if you want to breastfeed your baby. However, we would suggest not to breastfeed your baby if you have a coronavirus infection.
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