COVID-19: Information concerning breastfeeding mums | Medela

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COVID-19: Information concerning breastfeeding mums

COVID-19: Information concerning breastfeeding mums

Benefits of Breastfeeding

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The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is spreading, and with it many doubts, concerns and information that is inaccurate or unsubstantiated. To provide you with the latest and most credible information regarding breastfeeding, human milk, safety and health for you and your baby, Medela has created this COVID-19 information hub concerning breastfeeding with a collection of questions and answers to help you cope with this new reality we are now living. We will update this Q&A frequently as new information becomes available.

Share this information with your family, friends and colleagues. Help other parents to get answers from reliable and trustworthy sources.

Can I breastfeed if I am diagnosed with COVID-19?

UNICEF states that considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breast milk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, the mother can continue breastfeeding, while applying all the necessary precautions. Limited studies on breastfeeding women with COVID-19 and other coronavirus infections have not detected the virus in breast milk. It is not known whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via their breast milk. Currently, the primary concern is not whether the virus can be transmitted through breast milk, but rather whether an infected mother can transmit the virus through respiratory droplets during the period of breastfeeding. Precautions to avoid spreading the virus to your infant include washing hands before holding your baby, and wearing a face mask when in close contact with your baby as, for example, during direct breastfeeding. When using a breast pump to express breast milk, wash your hands before touching any pump or bottle parts and follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use.  Recommendations encourage that someone who is not sick feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.

What are the storage guidelines for breast milk if I have COVID-19?

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states that although it is still unknown whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk, limited studies on breastfeeding women with COVID-19 and other coronavirus infections have not detected the virus in breast milk. From that perspective, you can follow the regular breast milk storage guidelines (ABM and HMBANA).

If you have expressed breast milk cleanly and safely, you can store it at room temperature, in the fridge, or in the freezer, depending on how soon you want to use it.

 
Storage place Room temperature
16 °C to 25 °C
(60 °F to 77 °F)
Refrigerator
4 °C (39 °F)
or colder
Freezer
-18 °C (0 °F )
or colder
Previously frozen
breast milk thawed
in the refrigerator
Safe storage time Up to four hours is best

Up to six hours for milk expressed under very clean conditions*

Up to three days is best

Up to five days for milk expressed under very clean conditions*

Up to six months is best

Up to nine months for milk expressed under very clean conditions*

Up to two hours at room temperature

Up to 24 hours in the refrigerator

Do not refreeze

* Very clean conditions means rigorously following the guidance in our article on cleaning and sanitising your breast pump.These guidelines for storing and defrosting breast milk are a recommendation – contact your lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist for further information.

If your baby is in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) or special care ward, your hospital may have stricter recommendations for cleaning and storage.

If you’re refrigerating or freezing expressed milk, always label the bottles or bags with the amount and the date it was pumped, so you can track and manage your stored milk.

I am pregnant. Will it hurt the baby if I have COVID-19 during the pregnancy?

According to the CDC, at this time, there is not enough evidence to determine whether the virus is transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, or the potential impact this may have on the baby. This is currently being investigated.at this time. A small number of problems with pregnancy or delivery (e.g. preterm birth) have been reported in babies born to mothers who tested positive for COVID-19 during their pregnancy. However, it is not clear if these outcomes were actually related to maternal infection or not.

I am pregnant. Is it easier for pregnant women to become ill with COVID-19?

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists state that pregnant women do not appear to be more susceptible to the consequences of infection with COVID-19 than the general population. Pregnant women experience changes in their bodies that may increase their risk of some infections. It is known that with viruses from the same family as COVID-19, and other viral respiratory infections, such as influenza, women have had a higher risk of developing severe illness. This is why the CDC says it is always important for pregnant women to protect themselves from illnesses.

I am pregnant. How do I protect myself from COVID-19 during the pregnancy?

Pregnant women should do the same things as the general public to avoid infection. Please see the answer to the question How can I protect myself and others?

How can I protect myself and others?

Official bodies like WHO and UNICEF recommend

  • washing our hands frequently and thoroughly with water and soap or sanitiser and avoiding close contact with people who are ill. Furthermore, not touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands
  • catching coughs and sneezes in a tissue, binning it in a sealed waste bin and washing your hands as all this helps minimise the risk of infection and disease spreading.
  • avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing people while greeting.
  • avoiding close contact with people who are obviously ill.
  • social distancing (keep enough distance to other people).
  • stay home if you feel unwell. If you have a fever, cough and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention and call in advance. Follow the directions of your local health authority.

How do I protect my baby against COVID-19?

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants, and provides protection against many illnesses. But, as the CDC notes, there is much unknown about this virus. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, we recommend that you look at the CDC’s guidance and connect with your healthcare provider if you have any specific concerns.

  • Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitiser
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing)
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks)
  • Launder items including washable plush toys as appropriate in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

A complete review of the CDC guidelines regarding COVID-19 can be found at: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/specific-groups/pregnancy-guidance-breastfeeding.html.

In addition, UNICEF’s recommendations can be found at:
www.unicef.org/stories/novel-coronavirus-outbreak-what-parents-should-know

Consult with your health care provider if you have further questions or concerns.

How does Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread?

Much is still unknown about how the disease is spread. UNICEF and WHO state that person-to-person spread occurs mainly by breathing in respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza (flu) and other respiratory pathogens spread. These respiratory droplets also land on objects or surfaces and people touching surfaces contaminated with the virus can get infected by touching their eyes, nose or mouth with their contaminated hands. The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for several hours, but simple disinfectants can kill it.

How long is Coronavirus stable on surfaces such as pumps/kits/accessories?

 

Scientists have found that the virus responsible for COVID-19 was detectable as follow

in aerosols

for up to three hours

on copper

up to four hours

on cardboard

up to 24 hours

on plastic

up to two to three days

on stainless steel

up to two to three days

Could I get COVID-19 from a contaminated rental pump?

Trained employees perform the cleaning and servicing of rental pumps using standardised procedures. The pumps are cleaned with water and soap and then disinfected before they can be used by another mother. There are many disinfectants, including commonly used hospital disinfectants, that are active against coronaviruses.

What are the symptoms of a coronavirus infection?

The main symptoms include

  • fever (>37.8 degrees Celsius / >100.0 degrees Fahrenheit),
  • cough, i.e. acute (newly developed) cough and/or
  • shortness of breath or breathing difficulties and/or tiredness

 

Last update: 24 March 2020

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