Woman holding her baby.

https://breastpumps.byramhealthcare.com/blog/2023/07/09/what-to-know-about-donor-breast-milkWhat to Know About Breastfeeding and COVID-19?

The last few years have been filled with an abundance of information regarding safety precautions, health tips, and information on what to do if you contract COVID-19. With vaccine efficacy increasing, many unnecessary risks are beginning to decline. However, there are still a lot of unknowns regarding breakthrough cases, immunocompromised individuals, and how the coronavirus could affect developing babies or newborns. This understandably creates a certain degree of worry amongst pregnant women or those who have just given birth, especially when it comes to breastfeeding. We all know that breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do for your newborn, but what happens if we catch COVID-19 or are put at risk? To help you better understand how to navigate these times, here’s what to know about breastfeeding and COVID-19.

Pregnancy and Delivery During a Pandemic

While more information is needed to definitively understand the direct impact of COVID-19 on a developing baby, it’s always better to take precautions and be healthy. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, many professionals look at the impact of the flu on pregnant women for a comparison. If the same parameters are taken into account, it should be assumed that pregnant women are at a higher risk than nonpregnant women for serious cases of COVID-19 that may require hospitalization. While there have been a few documented cases of COVID-19 being passed to a fetus during pregnancy, it seems rare. It’s more likely that catching coronavirus while pregnant will impact the mother’s body, which can result in higher incidence rates of preterm birth or stillbirth. If you think you have COVID-19 and are pregnant, call your doctor immediately.

When your due date gets closer, don’t worry. There are plenty of changes that have been made in hospitals to ensure that you’re safe while giving birth during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you’re worried about the process or if you want to learn more about the added precautions your hospital is taking, talk to your doctor.

Important Information About Breastfeeding and COVID-19

Breastfeeding is the best way to give your developing baby the nutrients they need to flourish. Breast milk is packed with an abundance of vitamins and minerals, bacteria-fighting leukocytes, protein, healthy fats, and more. It helps your baby develop a strong immune system and decreases the risks of chronic conditions throughout their life. Breast milk can also help fight against respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, so it’s essential to continue to breastfeed during these times.

Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation that circulates the Internet. In one respect, people say that you should stop breastfeeding if you are diagnosed with COVID-19. In fact, there have been several studies that have found antibodies that target COVID-19 in human breast milk, therefore indicating that a degree of protection is passed between mom and baby.

Breastfeeding With a COVID-19 Diagnosis

Currently, the COVID-19 virus has not been found in breast milk, therefore, new mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding even if they are diagnosed. To help reduce the spread from you to your newborn, it’s essential to maintain good hygiene during nursing. Utilize the 3 W's for proactive hygiene during breastfeeding:

  • Wear a mask during nursing sessions
  • Wash hands with soap and water before and after touching your baby
  • Wipe and disinfect surfaces regularly


Your baby is more likely to catch COVID-19 from close contact, which is why taking these precautions is essential. Remember, your breast milk helps strengthen your baby’s immune system and can boost their immune response to COVID-19, so you should continue to nurse or at least feed your baby using expelled breast milk while you’re sick.

If you feel too ill to nurse or you’re worried about passing COVID-19 on to your baby, use a breast pump to expel milk and then have your partner or family member feed your baby. Make sure that whoever is responsible for feeding still follows the 3 W’s, since they will likely have been around you at some point.

Formula is only recommended for use as a last resort. Breastfeeding remains to be the safest, most reliable method of feeding your newborn regardless of illness. If you need to use formula to feed your baby, talk to your pediatrician about finding the best option for your circumstances and always follow the instructions for proper use. To avoid these instances, consider working on building your milk supply as soon as you deliver. Keeping a supply of milk available in your freezer for emergencies is a terrific way to ensure that your baby continues to receive the nourishment they need no matter what.

For mothers unable to breastfeed, talk to your doctor about accessing pasteurized donor human milk (PDHM). There are many women around the country who breast pump and then have unused breast milk. Any legitimate donor milk banks will screen and test all of the breast milk that’s donated. It’s then pasteurized to remove bacteria and viruses so you have the peace of mind that it’s safe for your baby to consume.

Vaccinations and Breastfeeding

Vaccines for COVID-19 are now readily available for almost everyone in the United States. If you’re able to get vaccinated, talk to your doctor about scheduling an appointment. It’s completely safe for lactating mothers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding and doing so may actually pass the mRNA vaccine antibodies to your baby. There is mounting evidence that shows that breast milk of vaccinated mothers carries antibodies against the virus. One study showed that 97% of women vaccinated showed elevated levels of IgA and IgB antibodies in their breast milk for six weeks after vaccination, which is essential to keeping your baby safe from COVID-19. While this doesn’t mean that your baby will have the same benefits as a fully vaccinated individual, it’s a step in the right direction. Many professionals are not sure how much protection these antibodies provide newborns and developing babies, but they will not harm them in any way. Therefore, it’s worth the effort of getting vaccinated. Again, talk to your doctor about which vaccination is best for you and schedule an appointment today.

With ongoing mutations of the coronavirus, breakthrough cases are on the rise. Vaccinated individuals can still contract COVID-19, but they are astronomically less likely to experience severe side effects or death, so it’s still worth getting. If you think that you may have COVID-19, whether you’ve been vaccinated or not, talk to your doctor. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that mothers with COVID-19 wear a mask while breastfeeding to help reduce contact, but don’t discontinue breastfeeding.

Caring For Your Newborn with COVID-19

Many women think that if they contract COVID-19, they should try to distance themselves from their babies to reduce the risk of transmission. However, it’s actually not recommended. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that the mother and baby remain together so that they can engage in skin-to-skin contact and nursing. To reduce transmission, wear a high-quality mask and practice good hygiene habits before and after holding your baby. If, for whatever reason, you need to be isolated from your baby, don’t worry. When breastfeeding is interrupted, there are many ways that you can increase the probability of re-establishing lactation. It’s recommended that you work with a lactation consultant to get the most out of your efforts and if you’re unable to re-establish your milk supply, there are plenty of options for providing your baby with the nutrients they need. To avoid any ongoing problems, continue to breast pump during your isolation to ensure that your milk supply stays strong.

To prepare, make sure that you look at your options for ordering an insurance covered breast pump ahead of time. There are hundreds of great options on the market but finding something that works for you is essential to actually using the pump and expelling an adequate amount of milk. Begin building your milk supply to help prepare yourself for any emergencies and if you have any questions or concerns about breastfeeding with COVID-19, reach out to your doctor today.

Byram Healthcare is here to help you along your pregnancy journey and into motherhood. In addition to our resources, Byram makes it easy to order an insurance covered breast pump at no cost to you. Get started with our simple, three-step ordering process today, or reach out to a representative using the live chat option on our website.