When it comes to feeding your baby, whether you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed, proper hygiene is always important, but here are some key facts and extra precautions you can take to keep yourself and your little one safe and healthy.
Will breastfeeding get my baby sick?
To date, the COVID-19 virus has not been found in breastmilk, and it is considered safe to continue breastfeeding while taking precautionary measures. There are rare instances where breastfeeding is not recommended. In the case of COVID-19, also known as “coronavirus” the benefits of breastfeeding are greater than the potential risk of passing it through breastmilk1. Breastfeeding offers many benefits and should be continued during sickness if possible. In the case of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 illness, the decision to continue to breastfeed should be discussed between the parents and doctor.
If you are sick, or might be sick with COVID-19, you may share infective airborne droplets during close contact with your baby, which may lead to the infection of your baby. Experts recommend taking additional precautionary measures while continuing your breastfeeding journey1,2,3. These measures include washing hands before and after touching your baby, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, with your bent elbow or tissue. If you are sick, you may consider wearing a mask, if this is available to you.
If you are too sick to care for your baby, you might consider expressing breastmilk, while adhering to sterilization guidelines. When expressing breastmilk, make sure your equipment has been properly cleaned before and after each use and that you wash your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before beginning. If someone else in your household is available, they can then bottle-feed your baby with this expressed breast milk while following the proper hygiene precautions mentioned below.
Proper hygiene, preparation, use and storage are important when preparing a bottle for your baby. Before starting, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands in soap and water, for 20 seconds, and make sure to thoroughly clean the kitchen surfaces you will be using, including cabinet doors and handles, countertops. Boiling clean bottles, nipples, caps and utensils in water for 2 minutes at a rolling boil will ensure your equipment is properly sterilized before preparing a bottle.
Can I cuddle my baby?
Close physical contact with your baby is an important part of their development and helps build a close emotional bond between the two of you. If you have a confirmed or suspected infection, experts do not generally recommend you isolate yourself from your baby2,3. Make sure to thoroughly wash your hands before and after spending time with them and wear a mask if available. Exercising extra safety precautions like these will help make sure you keep your baby healthy while you both enjoy all the cuddles.
Can I pass on my antibodies/immunity to my baby through breastfeeding?
Although breastfeeding generally does support and strengthen your baby’s immune system, there is very limited evidence of the transmission of antibodies from COVID-19 to your baby and the potential benefits are unclear4. Therefore, it is very important to follow strict hygiene practices to prevent potential infections as best as possible and keep yourself and your family safe and healthy.