CoVID-19 has been stressful for all parents, here at Carolina Kids Pediatrics, throughout Raleigh, NC, and throughout the country This may be especially true for mothers who are breastfeeding and concerned about transmitting infection to their infant. However, the CDC has published guidelines for breastfeeding moms during the pandemic, with some recommended precautions. To view these guidelines, check out:
Although none of the pediatricians at Carolina Kids Pediatrics have yet seen patients positive for CoVID-19 during the past 3 months, we know that CoVID-19 has been on the rise in Raleigh and throughout North Carolina in recent weeks. So can breastfeeding spread infection to babies if a mom is asymptomatic and does not know that she is infected? In general, respiratory viruses, including coronaviruses, are not expressed through breastmilk, and breastmilk would therefore not be a likely cause for spreading CoVID-19. However, a mother’s antibodies are secreted in breastmilk – including antibodies to CoVID-19 if a mother is infected, or has been infected in the past. Although we don’t have definitive evidence for CoVID-19 on this point yet, maternal antibodies are often the reason that breastfeeding infants are less likely to have severe respiratory infections when they get sick.
However, CoVID-19 is spread through close contact with respiratory droplets from those who are infected, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic. Therefore, it is possible for mothers to infect babies through the kind of close contact required for direct breastfeeding.
For this reason, the CDC recommends that moms who may be infected with CoVID-19 consider pumping and providing expressed breastmilk to their infants until they recover and are no longer contagious. If you have COVID-19 or are suspected of having COVID-19, staying in a different room from your baby is the safest way to keep your newborn healthy if this is at all possible. Washing hands thoroughly before touching bottles or pumping supplies is helpful. Cleaning your breasts before pumping and wearing a mask during the pumping process is also a good idea. If at all possible, a healthy caregiver can then feed breastmilk to your baby until you recover from infection.
It's also very important to clean your breast pump after each use. Remind all caregivers to wash hands thoroughly before touching bottles, or feeding or caring for your baby. If you decide to breastfeed directly, take all the recommended steps to prevent the potential spread of the virus, including using a mask and following careful breast and hand hygiene.
If you and your family decide to keep your baby in the same room as you while you are infected, keep a distance of at least 6 feet from your baby. When closer than 6 feet, wear a mask and make sure your hands are clean.
If you have COVID-19 (or suspect that you do), you can stop isolating yourself from your baby once you are fever-free without use of fever medicines (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) for at least 72 hours; when your other symptoms of COVID-19 are improving; and when at least 10 days have passed since your symptoms started.
If you have questions about breastfeeding as the pandemic evolves in the Raleigh, NC area, remember you can always give us a call at (919) 881-9009 to speak to our Carolina Kids Pediatrics lactation consultant, Jerrianne Webb.
We’ll post another general update about CoVID in the Raleigh, NC area within the coming week.
Christian Nechyba, MD
Carolina Kids Pediatrics