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What you need to know about breastfeeding with COVID-19

What you need to know about breastfeeding with COVID-19
What you need to know about breastfeeding with COVID-19

Words by
Feminin Botanik

As we navigate another year of the COVID-19 pandemic, you might be worried about how contracting COVID-19 will impact yourself and your baby. 

It’s completely normal to feel stressed or anxious about testing positive for COVID during your breastfeeding journey. 

The good news is that we know a lot now about how this disease works and how it can impact your breastfeeding experience. The big thing to remember is this: it’s completely safe to continue breastfeeding, even if you’ve contracted COVID-19.

Can you breastfeed if you’ve contracted COVID-19?

The short answer? Absolutely. 

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends women continue to breastfeed, even if they’re a confirmed COVID-19 case. The long-term health benefits of breastfeeding are shown to outweigh the potential risks of a baby contracting COVID-19 (in most cases). 

Decades of research has shown that breastfeeding is key to supporting a child’s development, nutritional needs and reducing the chance of long-term health complications. Every drop of your milk is enriched with immune-boosting antibodies, health giving nutrients and microbes that help to seed your baby’s microbiome.

The WHO specifically recommends that babies are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life (even if a mother has contracted COVID-19). 

We also know that babies and children are at low risk of COVID-19 infection, with their symptoms typically mild or even asymptomatic


What precautions can I take to keep my baby safe while breastfeeding with COVID-19?

Keeping your baby healthy and safe is your top priority.

While the chance of them contracting COVID-19 and being symptomatic is low, there are still ways you can protect your baby while breastfeeding with COVID-19, including:

  • Washing your hands prior to touching or feeding your baby (or using a breast pump)

  • Wearing a mask while feeding or providing skin-to-skin contact with your baby 
  • Checking that bottles and breast pumps are thoroughly sterilised after use

Even when diagnosed with COVID-19, the WHO recommends we continue to room together and practice skin-to-skin contact to help establish our breast milk supply.

What should I do if I feel too unwell to breastfeed?

Each of us will experience COVID-19 and its symptoms differently. While many cases of the disease are mild, some of us may experience more severe symptoms.

If you become too unwell to breastfeed, try expressing milk regularly to give your baby breastmilk when they need it. Again, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and ensure your bottles and breast pumps are cleaned and sterilised thoroughly after use.

Plus, make sure to store expressed breastmilk properly and ensure you’re following the guidelines for how to retain your milk’s nutritional value and potency. 

Will breastfeeding with COVID-19 provide immunity for my baby?

To some extent, yes.

Some immunity to COVID-19 is passed along to your baby through your breast milk. In a joint study by New York University and the University of Rochester Medical Center researchers found active COVID-19 antibodies in the breast milk of breastfeeding mothers with both disease-acquired and vaccine acquired immunity.

It has not yet been determined if the level of immunity infants acquire through breast milk antibodies will be sufficient to reduce infection or severity. 


Will COVID-19 have an impact on my breastmilk supply?

While it is uncommon, some mums have reported a drop in their milk supply while navigating COVID-19 or when they feel unwell. It’s important to chat with your lactation consultant or doctor if you notice low milk supply or something doesn’t feel right.


Breastfeeding with COVID can be tough, so be easy on yourself. Follow your instincts and reach out for help if you need it.