On Your Health

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What to Know About Birth and Breastfeeding During COVID

During these uncertain times, many expectant mothers are concerned about the potential risk of transmitting COVID-19 to their babies, especially if they plan to breastfeed. Your health and the health of your family are important to us at INTEGRIS Health, and we want to make sure you have the best information to help you navigate birth and breastfeeding during the coronavirus pandemic.

What to expect when you’re delivering

If you’re about to have your baby, you might have concerns and uncertainties surrounding your delivery. At INTEGRIS Health, the priority has always been the health and safety of both the mother and baby and additional safety protocols are in place to deal with the coronavirus.

INTEGRIS asks expectant mothers to complete a COVID-19 test prior to admission so staff will know best how to care for both the mother and baby and whether additional safety practices are needed. If a test is not completed, staff must treat the mother as a suspected COVID-19 patient and perhaps wastefully utilize COVID-19 personal protective equipment.

Ultimately, YOU will make the decision regarding whether baby stays with you or not regardless of COVID-19 test results. Informed decision making is critical, so appropriate precautions are in place to ensure the health and safety of you and your baby.

Expectant mothers who have COVID-19

The Oklahoma Department of Health says COVID-positive women who give birth can consider a temporary separation where the mother and newborn aren’t always in the same room, with the breast milk fed to the baby by a non-infected person.

But if you test positive for coronavirus the decision to quarantine away from your newborn can feel overwhelming, so your doctor can help you determine what is safest for you and your baby based on many factors, including your health and the health of your baby. Remember, the decision is ultimately up to you.

Can breastfeeding transmit COVID-19 to your baby?

Breast milk contains elements such as proteins, fats, sugars and probiotics that are essential for newborns. Additionally, breast milk contains antibodies that fight infection and boost the baby’s immune system. If a mother or baby becomes sick, breastfeeding can provide her baby with human antibodies.

So far, the coronavirus has not been found to be transmitted by breast milk. Furthermore, breast milk does not typically transmit respiratory illnesses that are similar to the coronavirus. While breastfeeding is ultimately a personal decision, if you do plan to breastfeed, the World Health Organization recommends continuing to breastfeed during the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered similar advice, explaining “We do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk, but the limited data available suggest this is not likely to be a source of transmission.”

However, it’s still important to continue taking recommended precautions to avoid you or your newborn being exposed to the coronavirus. Remember to practice social distancing, wash your hands often and regularly disinfect frequently touched surfaces. If you must go out for essentials, wear a face covering and maintain a distance of six feet from people outside your family. Plastic face shields and face masks are not recommended for newborns or infants, as they can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

Breastfeeding options for women with COVID-19

If you test positive for the coronavirus, you are still able to breastfeed or express breast milk. Either way, it’s important to take recommended precautions to avoid transmitting the coronavirus to your baby.

If you have COVID-19, remember to wear a cloth face covering while breastfeeding. You should also wash your hands and cleanse any skin that may come into contact with your baby before each feeding. 

You also have the option to express milk using a breast pump. If you choose this option, keep the following safety precautions in mind:

  • Use a dedicated breast pump
  • Wear a cloth face covering during expression
  • Wash your hands thoroughly before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk
  • Follow recommendations for proper pump cleaning after each use, cleaning all parts that come into contact with breast milk

If possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy person who does not have COVID-19, is not at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 and is living in the same home.

If you have questions about breastfeeding during the coronavirus pandemic, call the OK Breastfeeding Hotline at 1-877-271-MILK (6455) to speak with an international board certified lactation consultant. You can also text OK2BF to 61222.

Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank

The Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank provides safe donor milk to preterm or ill babies in Oklahoma. OMMB is now offering safe screening and contact-free milk drop-off for all donors. If you are able to become a milk donor, contact their office today. If you are a current donor, please review their COVID-19 precautions to ensure safe donation.

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