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Can women with COVID-19 illness breastfeed infants?

Can women with COVID-19 illness breastfeed infants?

Last Reviewed : 12/15/2020
Can women with COVID-19 illness breastfeed infants?

Breastfeeding newborns is critical both for the newborns and the mothers. It provides essential nutrients and antibodies to the newborns that cannot be found in other milk and at the same time, it helps to maintain lactation in the mothers.

Based on a study published in Lancet, samples were taken from cord blood, amniotic fluid, newborn upper airways and breast milk and tested for Novel Coronavirus. All the samples were negative for Coronavirus infection. However, this study includes only nine pregnant women and samples were tested in only six patients. While it is reassuring that Novel Coronavirus is probably not present in the breastmilk, there are some concerns over breastfeeding. When an infected mother breastfeeds newborns, Novel Coronavirus can spread because of the close contact between the mother and the newborn. Even if the Novel Coronavirus is not present in breast milk, because of it’s highly infective nature, it can spread from the infected mother to the newborn during breastfeeding.

Given there is still some uncertainty and highly infective nature of COVID-19 illness, it is recommended not to breastfeed as long as the infected mother needs to be in the isolation. Even without breastfeeding, infected mothers should pump regularly to maintain lactation. Supportive psychological care should be provided to the mothers as needed.

 

References:

  1. Expert consensus for managing pregnant women and neonates born to mothers with suspected or confirmed novel coronavirus (COVID-19) infection. Chen D et al. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2020 Mar 20. doi: 10.1002/ijgo.13146
  2. ISUOG Interim Guidance on 2019 novel coronavirus infection during pregnancy and puerperium: information for healthcare professionals. Poon LC et al. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Mar 11. doi: 10.1002/uog.22013
  3. What are the risks of COVID-19 infection in pregnant women? Qiao J. Lancet. 2020 Mar 7;395(10226):760-762. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30365-2
  4. Novel corona virus disease (COVID-19) in pregnancy: What clinical recommendations to follow? Liang H et al. Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand. 2020 Apr;99(4):439-442. doi: 10.1111/aogs.13836
  5. Clinical characteristics and intrauterine vertical transmission potential of COVID-19 infection in nine pregnant women: a retrospective review of medical records. Huijun Chen et al. Lancet 2020; 395: 809–15. https://doi.org/10.1016/ S0140-6736(20)30360-3

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