If you are worried about passing a sickness to your baby through close contact or breast milk, getting sick with a newborn in the house can be a lot of work.

“It might be a relief to know that your baby doesn’t get COVID-19 from breast milk. If you are sick and care for an infant, you can still get sick and spread the disease.”

The risks and benefits of breastfeeding if you are sick with COVID-19 will be discussed in this article.

Breast milk and the act of breastfeeding itself have many benefits for your baby — even if you are sick with COVID-19. Numerous studies have analyzed the milk of mothers infected with COVID-19 and found that the virus is not passed through breast milk — but antibodies that protect them from infection can be.

As with other viral illnesses, your body begins making antibodies shortly after infection. These antibodies are similar to vaccines in the way they include information to help your body fight the infection.

However, when you breastfeed with a COVID-19 infection, your baby can be infected if other precautions — such as washing your hands and wearing a mask — are not taken. This is due to face-to-face and hand-to-body contact while breastfeeding, not the breast milk itself.

Is it OK to express milk if you have COVID-19?

If you are sick, breast milk can be beneficial to feed your baby since it contains the anti-viruses that cause COVID-19. If you have COVID-19 and have chosen to limit close contact with your infant, you might consider doing this.

It is important to remember that the baby can still be exposed to the virus through regular transmission methods, even though it is not passed through breast milk.

While your breast milk itself is safe, there are still precautions you should take to avoid transmitting the virus to your baby in other ways. These include:

  • While feeding your baby and expressing milk, wear a mask.
  • Before feeding your baby or expressing milk, wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Do not share pumps if you use your own breast pump.
  • After use, clean the breast pump.
  • If you are sick, consider having an un-infectious member of the household provide care and feeding.
  • Make sure that anyone feeding an infant washes their hands thoroughly before and after feeding and wears a mask while feeding.

The risk of severe illness with COVID-19 is increased for pregnant and breastfeeding women, but they should still get the vaccine.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommends vaccination against COVID-19 for pregnant and nursing mothers, as well as other close caregivers.

CDC recommends that pregnant and nursing mothers stay up to date on all vaccinations, except for vaccines that contain live virus particles.

Aside from protecting mothers from becoming severely ill, there is evidence that vaccination can help protect babies, too. Antibodies that offer protection from the virus can be passed through breast milk, whether those antibodies came from a COVID-19 infection itself or from vaccination.

Discuss all vaccines with your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If you are sick with COVID-19, it’s best to isolate yourself from other members of the household who are not infected — including your baby. This means having other members of the household who are well, and ideally vaccinated, take care of the baby while you recover.

When this isn’t an option either because you live alone or other household members are also infected, you or other caregivers should wear a mask and practice careful hand hygiene when caring for your baby.

If you are ill or isolated, you should wear a mask when caring for your baby.

If you or other members of the household are feeling better after having COVID-19, you should continue to wear a mask when caring for your baby until at least the 10th day after you tested positive for COVID-19.

Signs an infant has become infected with COVID-19

The following symptoms may be signs that your baby has become infected with the virus:

  • There is a high degree of fever.
  • There is a lack of lethargy.
  • The nose is not straight.
  • cough
  • vomiting
  • There is a lot of diarrhea.
  • Poor appetite or feeding difficulties can be a problem.
  • Difficult breathing

One report that tracked mothers infected with COVID-19 who breastfed their babies found that between 2 and 5 percent of infants ended up infected also, but they were either asymptomatic or only mildly sick.

If you suspect your baby has become sick with COVID-19, call your doctor.

Can I pass COVID-19 to my baby through breast milk?

No. There are no particles of virus in breast milk.

Can breast milk protect babies from a COVID-19 infection?

Breast milk can help protect your baby from serious infections. You can develop an active COVID-19 infection or vaccine-derived antibodies.

When can babies be vaccinated for COVID-19?

At this time babies cannot be vaccinated. Children must be at least 5 years old to receive the COVID vaccine.

How should I protect my baby if I have COVID and I’m breastfeeding?

If you have COVID-19 and have an infant, you should consider allowing someone else to feed the baby while you are isolating.

If you or someone else who is affected by COVID-19 must feed and care for your baby, wear a mask and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before handling the baby or breast milk.

Breast milk is a nutritional and readily available food source for your baby, and it can even provide protective antibodies that can prevent severe infection should COVID be passed to your child.

The COVID-19 virus is not passed through breast milk, but anyone who handles a baby should be careful to avoid getting it.