COVID-19: How Breastmilk Helps Protect Your Baby From Viral Infections

Image Credit: Duke Health

Although everyone is well-aware of the global presence of the coronavirus pandemic, because it’s a novel (new) strain of the virus, there are still many unanswered questions in regard to the physiological impacts of this illness. Along with all the additional confusion that COVID-19 has brought us, many mothers have been left asking: should I still breastfeed if I have the virus?

According to the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, based on a small study of women with COVID-19, the virus has not been detected in breast milk, and as of right now, the World Health Organization guidelines state that mothers with COVID-19 can continue to breastfeed.

While much about COVID-19 is still unknown, the benefits of breastfeeding in fighting viral infections has been well-studied and documented throughout the scientific and medical community. According to Breastfeeding USA, one of the most astonishing characteristics of breastmilk is how adaptable it is to a child’s needs. As mother and nursling are exposed to viral infections, human milk can respond and produce antibodies in response to those specific antigens, which are then passed to the baby through nursing. These antibodies can destroy bacteria in the nursling’s gastrointestinal tract and hinder an illness before it even starts.

Although continuing to breastfeed when you believe you have been exposed to or currently have COVID-19 might seem daunting, the La Leche Leauge makes a very important point on the subject. If you believe you have been exposed to the virus, there is a good chance that your nursling has been exposed as well. By stopping breastfeeding, you run the risk of worsening your child’s symptoms by discontinuing the transfer of these disease-fighting antibodies.

On February 19th, 2020, The La Leche Leauge released the following statement on the subject:

“Those who become infected shortly before giving birth and then begin breastfeeding, and those who become infected while breastfeeding, will produce specific secretory IgA antibodies and many other critical immune factors in their milk to protect their nursing infants and enhance their infants’ own immune responses. At this time, these immunologic factors will aid their infants’ bodies to respond more effectively to exposure and infection.”

While we know that these are uncertain times full of conflicting information, we encourage everyone to look to the body of evidence in support of breastfeeding and the official statements from reputable sources such as the WHO, CDC, and La Leche Leauge when making these incredibly important and impactful decisions for your family.

Despite its many challenges, there is one slight silver lining in regards to the current outbreak, and that is that most children are either presenting mild symptoms or are completely asymptomatic when infected. Of the 72,000 confirmed cases in China, children under the age of 10 accounted for less than 1% of all infections, with zero deaths in that age group. So take a deep breath, mama- the numbers are in our favor.

Still, in order to protect our elderly and immunocompromised friends and family and prevent hospital bed shortages, necessary precautions must be taken to stop the spread of this incredibly contagious virus.

Even in the face of a pandemic outbreak, breastfeeding your baby is protecting your baby. So please keep calm, exercise kindness, and nurse on. We’re all in this together.

The Latched Mama blog does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
Content from the Latched Mama blog is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment. The information provided on this blog is intended for general consumer understanding and entertainment only; with experiences shared from Mom to Mom. The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. ***Please contact your family pediatrician to discuss professional medical advice.***

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