Breastfeeding advice for women who have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19

Last updated: 1 May 2020

This advice is for women and babies who are at home in the community. It is based on what is currently known about COVID-19 and the transmission of other viral respiratory infections. The Ministry of Health will update this interim guidance as additional information becomes available.

Breastfeeding your baby

Breastfeeding provides immunological protection for your baby. Most often babies who are breastfed remain healthy even when their parents or other family members are unwell with an infectious illness.

Considering the benefits of breastfeeding, you should continue to breastfeed during the COVID-19 pandemic while applying all the necessary precautions. You should:

  • wash your hands before and after contact with your baby (including feeding, nappy change, holding)
  • clean/disinfect any surfaces you touch
  • ensure you cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue which you discard immediately, then clean your hands again.

If you have a confirmed or probable case of COVID-19

If you become infected with COVID-19 shortly before giving birth, or have developed symptoms and are awaiting test results, your midwife and doctors will provide advice on the potential of your baby developing COVID-19. You can still choose to breastfeed while taking specific precautions

To reduce risk of spreading the virus while breastfeeding, you should wear a surgical mask. These will be provided by your midwife. You should also wash your hands thoroughly before feeding. Avoid kissing and touching your baby’s face.

If you are too unwell to breastfeed, you can express your milk and give it to your baby in a bottle. Make sure you still follow the infection prevention methods.

If you become unwell in the days or weeks after giving birth, and you are breastfeeding your baby, you do not need to interrupt breastfeeding. There is no evidence of transmission of the virus through your breastmilk, and your baby will benefit from continued breastfeeding. Because your baby will have been exposed to COVID-19, they will be considered a close contact of a confirmed case and you will be provided advice from your public health unit.

Self-isolation after potential exposure to COVID-19

If you are isolating yourself at home after potential exposure to COVID-19, your breastfed baby should remain with you so you can continue breastfeeding. Wash your hands before touching the baby, avoid touching their face and cough or sneeze into your elbow. Seek advice from your GP or call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if you develop symptoms of COVID-19.

Re-lactation

If you have recently stopped breastfeeding, it is possible to re-lactate or re-establish the production of breastmilk. Women who re-lactate can produce enough milk to breastfeed an infant fully or partially

The easiest way to bring back a milk supply is through a baby suckling at the breast. The more often a baby suckles at your breast, the more likely your breasts will make milk. Talk to your midwife or Well Child nurse for more information on re-establishing your breastmilk supply if this is something you would like to do.

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