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Breastfeeding with COVID-19

A baby looks up at a woman holding him.

Breast milk is the best food for babies. It has an array of health benefits for little ones and their moms. For these reasons, most new mothers are strongly encouraged to breastfeed.

That's true even if you have COVID-19. The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in breast milk, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports. So you most likely cannot pass it to your baby that way.

And with some basic precautions, you can lower the risk of passing the virus through close contact.

Feeding your baby safely

Your healthcare provider can give you advice on breastfeeding safely if you have COVID-19. And these six tips from the AAP, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts may help:

1. Always wash your hands before touching your baby, expressing or pumping breast milk, or touching bottle parts. Scrub with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren't available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.

2. Wear a mask while breastfeeding or expressing milk by hand or with a pump. Because the virus spreads through close contact, you should also wear a mask whenever you care for your baby and can't stay 6 feet away. Babies and other children younger than 2 years old should not wear face masks.

3. If you need to cough or sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow. Throw away used tissues. Then wash your hands right away before carrying on feeding your baby.

4. If you're pumping, be sure to clean and sanitize the breast pump after each use.

5. Consider a stand-in, a healthy person who can feed your baby breast milk you've pumped if you're too ill to do so. (Do not choose someone who is at risk of severe illness from COVID-19.) This person should wash their hands and wear a mask when feeding and caring for your baby.

6. Follow your healthcare provider's advice for how long your family (including your baby) should isolate or quarantine.

If you need breastfeeding support

Learning to breastfeed a baby isn't always easy, even without the added challenges of COVID-19. Tell your healthcare provider if you need help. You might be able to get support from a lactation expert in person or through a telehealth visit.

Reviewed 2/19/2021

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