CONTINUING TO NURSE YOUR BABY THROUGH CORONAVIRUS (2019-NCOV; COVID-19) AND OTHER RESPIRATORY INFECTIONS
Many people have asked for information updates from La Leche League International (LLLI) regarding coronavirus in relation to childbirth and breastfeeding. We continue to emphasize the critical importance of breastfeeding all babies whether newly born or older and whether someone has tested positive for COVID-19 or not. Being knowledgeable about the benefits of breastfeeding and risks of not breastfeeding is important for families as they make childbirth and infant feeding decisions.
Breastfeeding is the best means of protecting a baby from getting sick or of reducing the severity of a baby’s illness if a baby does become ill.
LLLI supports the World Health Organization (WHO) recommendation for breastfeeding immediately after birth even when a positive COVID-19 test has been obtained. Breastfeeding is important for an infant who is born to anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 or who has a close family member who has tested positive. It is critical that all newborns be supported in breastfeeding within one hour after birth so they can benefit from the immunological components that colostrum provides.
If someone who is breastfeeding becomes ill, it is important not to interrupt breastfeeding unless it becomes medically necessary. When any member of the family has been exposed, the infant has been exposed. Any interruption of breastfeeding may actually increase the infant’s risk of becoming ill and even of becoming severely ill.
Mothers who become too ill to breastfeed should be supported in hand expressing or pumping so that the baby can still be given the milk. If that is not possible, donor milk is recommended by the WHO as the next best feeding option, as donor milk will contain immunological components not available in human milk substitutes. Information about relactation should be offered, along with support to help get the baby back to the breast when health improves.
LLLI encourages families to make informed decisions based on reliable information and discussions with knowledgeable professionals.
The World Health Organization (WHO) offers guidance and other information on coronavirus in multiple languages on the WHO website. UNICEF also provides information for breastfeeding through COVID-19 infection. Links are included in the references below.
All of the information above also applies to families at risk of or experiencing influenza and other respiratory viruses.
Also see the South Africa Department of Health's Breastfeeding in the context of Covid-19 pamphlet which can be downloaded here.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 13 April 2020). About 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019 – nCoV). https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/index.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 15 April 2020). Frequently Asked Questions and Answers: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) and Pregnancy. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-faq.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC; 16 April 2020). Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Frequently Asked Questions and Answers. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html
Chen H, Guo J, Wang C, et al. Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. Lancet 2020; published online Feb 12 2020 at https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30360-3
China National Health Commission. Transcript of Press Conference on Feb 7, 2020 in Chinese. Available at http://www.nhc.gov.cn/xcs/s3574/202002/5bc099fc9144445297e8776838e57ddc.shtml
Lam, C.M., Wong, S.F., Leung, T.N., Chow, K.M., Yu, W.C., Wong, T.Y., Lai, S.T. and Ho, L.C. (2004), A case‐controlled study comparing clinical course and outcomes of pregnant and non‐pregnant women with severe acute respiratory syndrome. BLOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics & Gynaecology, 111: 771-774.
Shek CC, Ng PC, Fung GP, et al. Infants born to mothers with severe acute respiratory syndrome. Pediatrics 2003; 112: e254.
UNICEF (February 2020). Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know. Accessed 18 February 2020 from https://www.unicef.org/stories/novel-coronavirus-outbreak-what-parents-should-know
Wong SF, Chow KM, Leung TN, et al. Pregnancy and perinatal outcomes of women with severe acute respiratory syndrome. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2004; 191: 292–97.
World Health Organization (WHO; 17 March 2020). Home care for patients with suspected novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection presenting with mild symptoms and management of contacts: Interim guidance 17 March 2020. https://www.who.int/publications-detail/home-care-for-patients-with-suspected-novel-coronavirus-(ncov)-infection-presenting-with-mild-symptoms-and-management-of-contacts
World Health Organization (WHO, 2020). Novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). Accessed 15 April 2020 from https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019
Zhu H, Wang L, Fang C, et al. Clinical analysis of 10 neonates born to mothers with 2019-nCoV pneumonia. Transl Pediatr 2020; published online Feb 10 2020. DOI:10.21037/tp.2020.02.06.
ABM statement on Coronavirus 19 (COVID-19) https://www.bfmed.org/abm-statement-coronavirus
*Parts of the contents of this page was generously supplied by La Leche League International