The Covid-19 pandemic has been a stressful time for everyone, but especially for new mothers who are concerned about the health and safety of their babies.
The CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization all are currently recommending that mothers continue to breastfeed their babies during this outbreak. That’s because the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risks. Breastfeeding is not only the best way to provide nourishment to your baby, but it also provides bonding that is important for your baby’s development and your mental health, too. Plus, breast milk helps boost the immune system of infants, keeping them protected from many diseases.
At this point, there is no evidence that babies can contract Covid-19 through breast milk, and in fact, studies have shown that breast milk from Covid-19-positive mothers contains antibodies to the virus, so babies who are drinking breast milk may actually be more protected from the virus.
However, infants who do contract Covid-19 are considered high-risk for developing severe complications, so if you are going to breastfeed or breast pump during this time, it’s best to take as many precautions as possible.
Here are some answers to basic questions about breastfeeding and breast pumping during the Covid-19 pandemic:
Q: Is It Safe to Pump at Work During the Covid-19 Pandemic?
A: If you have to work outside the home these days, especially if you are a health care worker or first responder, you may be wondering whether it is safe to pump breast milk at work. The answer is yes, as long as you keep your pumping parts and pumping environment as clean and sanitized as possible. Here are a few tips to make pumping at work even safer.
- Wash your hands before pumping
Although washing your hands before you pump is always recommended, it’s especially important now. Use hot, soapy water for 20 seconds. If you don’t have access to a sink at work, use hand sanitizer or wear disposable gloves to handle your pumping parts.
- Disinfect pump parts
Before you start pumping, use disinfectant wipes to wipe down all of your parts, as well as the table and chair you’ll be using.
- Boil pump parts
Under normal circumstances, the CDC recommends hand washing your pump parts as soon as possible after each use, and sanitizing them — by boiling them, putting them in the dishwasher or using a sanitizing bag in the microwave – once a day. However, according to breast pump manufacturer Rumble Tuff, during the Covid-19 pandemic, parents are now advised to sanitize breast pump parts after each use. Rumble Tuff recommends using a paper towel to dry the parts and using each paper towel only once. If this is too time consuming, you may want to purchase extra breast pump parts and sanitize them later.
- Buy a separate work pump
One emergency room nurse in New York, who had to pump in a high-risk environment, said she decided to keep one pump at home and one pump that at work in order to minimize exposure to the virus. Find out more about how to get a second pump.
Q: Can I Breastfeed If I Test Positive for Covid-19?
A: Yes. According to the CDC, mothers who test positive for Covid-19 can still breastfeed, but they should take additional precautions to avoid spreading the virus to their babies. The CDC recommends:
- Washing your hands before you pick up your baby
- Wearing a face mask when you are within 6 feet of your baby
- Trying to stay more than 6 feet away from your baby whenever possible
- Increasing ventilation by opening a window in a room you are in
- Disinfecting any items you bring to your baby
- Checking your baby’s temperature twice a day and watching for symptoms of Covid-19
- Keeping your baby away from people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from Covid-19.
The CDC says you can return to normal interactions with your baby 10 days after your symptoms first appeared, as long as you have not had a fever for at least 24 hours without fever-reducing medications and your other Covid-19 symptoms are improving. If you never had any symptoms, the CDC says you can return to normal interactions with your baby 10 days after the date of your positive Covid-19 test.
Q: Can I Pump If I Test Positive for Covid-19?
A: Yes. If you are feeling well enough to pump, you may do so. The CDC recommends washing your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and wearing a mask while pumping. The CDC also suggests having a healthy caregiver feed your pumped milk to your baby, if possible. The healthy caregiver should wear a mask the entire time you are in isolation and for two weeks after you complete isolation.
Q: Should I Put a Mask on My Baby?
A: No. The CDC does NOT recommend putting a face mask on children under the age of 2. A face mask may suffocate or strangle a baby.
Q: What Else Should I Do to Be Prepared?
A: Although many people who test positive for Covid-19 experience only mild symptoms, some people may experience severe symptoms that can lead to hospitalization. Here are three things you can do to be prepared in case you need to go to the hospital:
- Identify a support person
In the event you become very ill, make sure you have a support person lined up who can take care of your baby. Also, make sure that person knows what your breastfeeding plan is (whether you want to use pumped breast milk you have saved, use donor milk or switch to formula), in the event that you have to be hospitalized.
- Create a back-up stash of pumped milk
If you become too ill to breastfeed, you may want to have a back-up stash of pumped milk on hand in case you need to have another caregiver feed your baby.