What we know
Based on what is known so far Covid-19 is not directly transferred through breast milk. Antibodies to the virus are *likely* passed to the newborn through human milk of an infected parent. The public health agency of Canada and the WHO both recommended that parents with suspected or confirmed Covid-19 continue to bodyfeed if that’s how they’re been feeding baby.
If you are infected or suspected to be you CAN continue to offer human milk (breast/chest/pumped) with additional precautions:
Mask yourself when feeding and when close to infant
Fastidious and frequent hand washing all day, but especially when bodyfeeding, handling pump parts and expressed milk.
Frequent cleaning of high-touch surfaces.
If you sneeze or cough when you have your top off, there may be droplets that have landed on your breast. Wash the breast with mild soap and water prior to feeding.
If you’ve tested positive, baby would be considered a close contact. Baby should also be quarantined (*with you*) for the duration of your required isolation and typically for about 14 days after that. Your own public health unit will advise on specific lengths of isolation periods. In that case, anyone else in the house that is caring for the infant should mask themselves, try to maintain distance (when possible) and use a separate washroom (if there is more than one washroom).
If you’ve tested positive and are so run-down that you cannot feed,
delegate this task.
If you’re up to it, have someone rent you a hospital grade pump, or buy a consumer product pump.
Pump up to 8 times a day if you can manage it and don’t pump at all if it’s just outside the realm of possibility for you. Sterilize pump equipment (flanges and pump parts that connect to the flange) after each use in boiling water for at least 2 minutes.
If financially possible, and if doing a lot of pumping buy 1 or 2 extra pump parts so you aren’t constantly having to clean them—it can be annoying as hell and not sustainable if you’re feeling ill.
If you don’t have a confirmed or suspected case and haven’t been in close contact with a suspected or confirmed case, there is no reason to take additional precautions when feeding besides population-based messages to protect oneself such as masking when outdoors and avoiding outings unless required (medical care, food).
If an LC is coming into your home don’t be shy to ask them about their use of PPE, any probably exposures and their Covid-19 protocols. If you are severely immune compromised telemedicine lactation services are recommended to reduce your risk.
DO NOT MASK A BABY - so many risks, not an option!
The amount of stress one is likely to experience after having a child is enough to exhaust someone, add a Covid-19 infection to this major-life transition and you may be at risk for perinatal mental health issues. Do not hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider in the case that you are feeling overwhelming anxiety, depression, psychosis or 48hours of no (or next to no) sleep despite having the opportunity to sleep.
If you’ve tested positive, are low-income your community may likely have food delivery programs to help you gain access to the things you need while you have to quarantine.
In Toronto (the city where I practice):
The City is working with the Red Cross and other partners to provide food hamper delivery to seniors and others in need who are unable to leave their homes. This service is made available for qualifying seniors and others that are in self-isolation who do not have alternative access to food (through family, friends, availability of food delivery services) and are currently not receiving such assistance from another community food program.
Call 1-833-204-9952 for eligibility and registration information.
Canadian Pediatric Society
Public Health Agency of Canada
Government of Canada
Breastfeeding Comittee for Canada