What do we know about breastfeeding and the coronavirus?
Breastfeeding is recommended even if you are infected or you are sick from being infected by the coronavirus. Coronavirus has not been detected in breastmilk from women with coronavirus infection, where this has been studied. Relatively few infants have been reported with confirmed coronavirus infection. Those that have had an infection have had a mild course of the disease.
Can the virus be transmitted from the mother to the baby during breastfeeding?
We do not yet know if the coronavirus can be transmitted from the mother to the baby. What we do know is that breastfeeding protects the baby from disease after birth as well as later in infancy and childhood. Breastfeeding protects against infection by transferring antibodies from mother to baby. Breastmilk also contains components that are beneficial for the development of the child's immune system. Breastmilk and breastfeeding have several positive health benefits both for the child and for you who are breastfeeding.
What advice applies to me who is breastfeeding?
If you are healthy and without symptoms of respiratory infection nor diagnosed with covid-19, you should follow:
If you have a respiratory infection and/or are diagnosed with covid-19:
If you have a respiratory infection and/or are diagnosed with covid-19, you should follow the same general advice listed above for breastfeeding and infection prevention, and in addition the following advice that applies specially to breastfeeding:
- Keep a good hand hygiene whenever you are in close contact with the baby. You should always wash your hands thoroughly prior to breastfeeding and prior to touching your breasts.
- Try to avoid touching your breasts just like you are advised to avoid touching your face, to avoid transmission from your hands to your breast (and further to your baby). When required, your breasts can be washed with soap and water; alcohol should not be used.
- If you receive breastfeeding guidance from a health care provider, ask if he or she can show or explain without touching your breasts.
- Avoid coughing or sneezing directly onto your baby, for example by keeping some distance (when not breastfeeding). If you cough or sneeze while breastfeeding, you should cough or sneeze away from the baby and into tissue paper that you then dispose of.
- Clean your home frequently, including washing/disinfection of surfaces that you are in contact with, such as door handles, mobile phones etc.
If you/the mother is seriously ill and cannot breastfeed the baby directly, it will be of great benefit if you/the mother can get help to express / pump breastmilk for the baby while still following recommendations to prevent infection.
Breastfeeding if you are healthy and sent home early from the hospital after birth
If you have returned home from the hospital before breastfeeding has properly started, it is important that you contact your local health centre to quickly get guidance should you need it. Due to the challenging situation, it is recommended that
home visits are replaced with consultation at the health centre, with an interpreter if needed (helsedirektoratet.no).
Ammehjelpen, the Norwegian Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding Support Group, provides practical advice and support on breastfeeding by volunteer mums via Ammehjelpen.no or their Facebook-group.
It is important and beneficial if you breastfeed as much as possible after giving birth. Give the baby as much breast milk as possible and nothing else unless required. For most babies, colostrum (the first yellow milk produced) is enough during the first few days. Colostrum comes in small quantities and is continuously being produced. It is therefore important to let the baby feed as often as he or she wants to. The more you breastfeed, the more your baby's sucking will stimulate your supply and the more milk you'll make. It is quite normal for newborns to breastfeed 8-12 times a day and sometimes more.
Once your milk production has started (milk is "coming in") (after 2-4 days), there are certain signs you can follow to make sure your baby gets enough milk.
When should I contact the health services?
If you find that your baby is not eating well, that he or she does not swallow milk during breastfeeding, if the diapers are dry and/or the baby seems tired and apathetic, the baby might not be getting enough milk/fluid.
You must then contact the health centre (possibly your doctor hospital) immediately, at the same time as you try to get the baby to take breast milk, alternatively infant formula.
If you have tried to breastfeed and have received good breastfeeding councelling without succeeding, or if you are not well enough to breastfeed or express / pump breastmilk, the baby must be given infant formula. Pay extra attention to the hygiene.