Can I breastfeed if I get too sick with the coronavirus?

You’ve heard that it’s safe for you to breastfeed during the COVID-19 pandemic, but what happens if you get very ill and even have to be hospitalised?

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You’ve been breastfeeding your baby since day one, and you’ve come a long way despite the cracked nipples and inconvenient leaking when you get too full. In fact, it’s an experience you’ve really come to enjoy now that you and baby have this thing synced and you’re chuffed with how she’s thriving on your liquid gold.

But like any mom, you’re increasingly worried about getting infected with the coronavirus and whether you’ll be able to continue breastfeeding your baby if you get sick.

ALSO SEE: Moms: This is what you need to do in case you test positive for COVID-19

Yes, you can continue breastfeeding

Midwife and lactation consultant Christine Kleynhans says current guidelines by the Department of Health (DOH) confirm that women with COVID-19 can continue to breastfeed. However, you’ll need to practice “excellent hand and respiratory hygiene.” According to UNICEF, this means you’ll have to do the following:

  • Wear a mask when you’re feeding your baby to reduce the possibility of droplets of the virus spreading to your baby
  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water (or use hand sanitiser) before and after you’ve touched your baby
  • Wipe and disinfect surfaces you’ve touched around you regularly.

If you become too ill to breastfeed, Christine says it may still be possible for you to express milk using a dedicated breast pump that’s been cleaned and heat disinfected between use. You can then ask a non-infected member of your family to feed your baby using a dedicated feeding cup, or a cup and spoon, that’s also washed and heat disinfected between use.

You could also explore relactation (restarting breastfeeding when you’ve recovered), wet nursing or using donor human milk, although it would be best to seek professional advice from a health practitioner or a lactation specialist.

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