Editor’s note: This post has been updated to incorporate breastfeeding information as it pertains to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protecting your baby’s health and well-being is instinctual for new moms. During cold and flu season, you may be extra cautious with your newborn’s health. And, during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents are taking more safety precautions. It’s recommended to keep your sick family members or friends away from your baby. But what about protecting your child from you?
Is it safe to breastfeed while sick with a common cold or flu?
Marshfield Clinic Health System Lactation Consultant Jessie Richardson, R.N., said if you are sick with a common viral or bacterial illness, continue to breastfeed your child.
Moms are actually passing immunities to their baby through breastfeeding,” she said. “Any immunities developed through the illness are being transferred directly to their baby and help protect the baby from the illness that mom currently has.”
Richardson said breast milk does not transfer an illness to your child; instead, it has antibodies in the milk to keep your baby healthy. The same holds true for when your baby is sick – continue to breastfeed your child to help keep their immune system strong and fight off infections.
Is it safe to breastfeed while positive or suspected for COVID-19?
Health System lactation consultants follow American Academy of Pediatrics guidance on breastfeeding for mothers or infants suspected or confirmed with COVID-19. As Richardson said, it is beneficial to breastfeed your baby to help protect them from any illnesses.
If you want to breastfeed your infant and are suspected or confirmed with COVID-19, wash your hands with soap and water and wear a mask when feeding your baby. You should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to your baby. If you do not feel comfortable breastfeeding, you may still pump while masked and with clean hands, and have a loved one or caregiver feed your breastmilk to your infant.
If you are positive for COVID-19, stay six feet away or masked when near your baby. Once you are cleared of COVID-19, these precautions can be discontinued.
Follow your pediatrician’s and public health’s advice for COVID-19 and breastfeeding. Recommendations may change as more research becomes available.
Wash your hands and save your kisses
When you are sick, you can continue to breastfeed but take precautions. Hand washing regularly is important when feeding, changing and caring for your baby. Try not to cough, sneeze or have face-to-face contact with your child until you are feeling well.
Keep the routine
When you are not feeling well, you might not want or have the energy to breastfeed or breast pump. Richardson encourages you to continue your routine to signal breast milk production. Drink plenty of fluids and rest when you can. If your baby is sick, continue to encourage them to breastfeed as well.
“For a sick child, it can be very comforting to breastfeed and get close to mom,” Richardson said. “Moms just might have to be creative with positioning to provide comfort for themselves and baby.”