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Breastfeeding While Sick

Updated: May 23, 2023

Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience that helps mothers bond with their babies and provides them with vital nutrients for their growth and development. However, breastfeeding while sick can be a challenging and overwhelming experience for new mothers. Understandably, as a pregnant or breastfeeding mother, you are wondering if viruses can be passed from you to your baby and what you can do to protect yourselves and your families.

Research is ongoing, but from the limited research and data we do have, it is believed that viruses are NOT transmitted in pregnancy or through breast milk. This is a promising start and is reassuring to all mothers to continue close contact and continue breastfeeding their babies for as long as possible.

The protective power that breastfeeding and breastmilk have against infections and illness in newborns and infants is now more relevant than ever before. During breastfeeding protective antibodies are transferred directly from your breastmilk to your baby, strengthening your baby’s own immune system. Breastfeeding and breast milk feeding really is your superpower right now!


Breastfeeding hygiene

  • Wash your hands well before handling your baby and before breastfeeding, and before handling expressing equipment or bottles;

  • If you have any respiratory symptoms you should wear a face mask whilst breastfeeding (and get tested);

  • Keep your feeding area and surfaces clean with disinfectant;

  • If you do have symptoms or have tested positive to COVID-19 and you feel well enough you should continue to breastfeed. If you are feeling too unwell to feed you may need to express your milk and have someone help you feed your baby;

  • Take particular care with cleaning and sterilising expressing equipment, formula equipment, bottles and teats if needed;

  • Maintain your milk supply as best you can – this might include expressing and seeking support from a lactation consultant.​

Continued breastfeeding is paramount to your baby’s protection from viruses.


Breastfeeding Support

So how can you get the help and support you need to continue to breastfeed confidently and for as long as you possibly can?

  • Support from your health nurse, midwife, lactation consultant, GP or other health professional is available and can usually be accessed via a phone or video link consultation.

  • Whilst video link consults are no substitute for a face-to-face consultation they can be more helpful than you might think. You might have shorter but more frequent sessions with your lactation consultant and build a trusting relationship that can be long-term and better sustain you through your challenges.

  • Online mothers groups are a great way to stay connected and share your journey with other mothers experiencing similar fears and struggles and to just have some other human contact! Check out the Parents You've Got This groups, and sign up on the Contact page.

  • Try not to be afraid, these are unprecedented times, yes, but you have the ultimate superpower in providing breast milk to your little one. The expertise and supports you might need throughout your breastfeeding journey are still there, it just looks different for now.

So hold tight lovely mamas! Stay connected and together, you can breastfeed your way through this pandemic!

References:

WHO, UNICEF, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention & Australian Breastfeeding Association online guidelines and breastfeeding advice during COVID-19 pandemic, and Medium.


Rowena Gray is Parents You've Got This Breastfeeding Expert and presents at our Baby Basics Masterclass. View our class times today!


Mother sick with virus | Parents You've Got This


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