Breastfeeding and Coronavirus: Are They Compatible?

May 27, 2020
Given the current global situation, it's normal for new mothers to wonder if breastfeeding and coronavirus are compatible. In general, the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the possible risks of transmission.

In the midst of the current pandemic caused by coronavirus, there are many questions that arise – especially when it comes to the most vulnerable populations. What happens with coronavirus in pregnant women? And what about newborns? In this article, we’ll take a close look at the relationship between coronavirus and breastfeeding.

The truth is that we have very little concrete information regarding how this virus affects pregnant women, newborns, and breastfeeding babies. It’s a new virus and the infection has only been circulating for a short time in our environment. New studies are coming out every day with the latest findings, but the population sample continues to be small, as well as the time scientists have had to do their research.

What is coronavirus and how does it spread?

Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is the virus behind the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scientists detected the virus for the first time in the Chinese city of Wuhan and, from there, the virus has spread around the world. In many cases, the disease is asymptomatic. However, in other cases, it produces serious respiratory infections that can lead to death.

The most common symptoms include coughing, fever, and difficulty breathing. The virus tends to have greater effects on the elderly, especially those who already suffer from other preexisting conditions. For example, diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

Breastfeeding and Coronavirus: Are They Compatible?

We know that the main way that coronavirus spreads is through respiratory droplets. That is, through direct contact between individuals – especially through coughing and sneezing. At the same time, it can spread through contaminated surfaces and objects, since we touch them with our hands and then touch our faces.

To date, there is no evidence suggesting that the virus can spread through breastmilk. Of course, as we mentioned, our experience with the new coronavirus is very short, so there’s no way to be certain at this point. The same is true regarding the possibility of vertical transmission of the virus from mother to child during delivery.

Coronavirus and breastfeeding

Breastmilk is an amazingly important means of protection for a newborn baby’s immune system. The benefits of breastfeeding are countless – both for babies and their mothers – especially during the first months of life.

As we’ve said, the virus doesn’t appear to spread via breastmilk, but there are too few studies to be absolutely sure. Just the same, in general terms, we can say that the benefits outweigh the risks.

The biggest problem is the close contact between a mother and her baby during the act of breastfeeding. Therefore, mothers should, at all times, maintain the measures of hygiene and protection. This includes wearing a mask and washing her hands frequently.

Breastfeeding and Coronavirus: Are They Compatible?

If a mother must extract her milk in order to bottle-feed her baby later on, then hygiene measures should be even stricter. It’s important to disinfect and sterilize any objects and surfaces used in order to prevent contagion.

Another key point to take into account are the pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of COVID-19. Scientists need to carefully study the case of breastfeeding mothers who are undergoing treatment. This is because the antivirals they take could travel through their breastmilk to their babies.

Coronavirus and breastfeeding: Final considerations

Given the short time that the new coronavirus infection has been in our midst, there’s still a lot we don’t know. For example, we can’t be 100% sure about the effects of coronavirus on pregnant women, breastfeeding babies, and newborns.

However, we can say that, in general terms, coronavirus and breastfeeding are compatible. This is because the benefits of breastfeeding far outweigh the risks of possible contagion.

However, it’s important to take each individual case into consideration. Each family should decide how to face the situation, given the risks that exist. When it comes to the relationship between coronavirus and breastfeeding, it’s essential to practice proper hygiene and protective measures in order to avoid contagion.

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