How does COVID-19 affect breastfeeding mothers, those who want to donate milk, or those who need donor milk for their baby?
When it comes to having a baby during the COVID-19 pandemic, many questions have arisen about breastfeeding. Is it safe to breastfeed if I get the virus? What precautions should I take? Is it safe for my baby to receive donor milk in the NICU during a pandemic?
We spoke to Mothers’ Milk Bank Austin to answer some of these important questions regarding breastfeeding, donor milk, and COVID-19.
What should breastfeeding mothers keep in mind when breastfeeding or pumping during a pandemic?
Breast milk is the best food for your babies, with or without a pandemic! The benefits you give your baby even if you test positive for COVID-19 are priceless — your baby will thank you for the immune support. You may need to wear a mask, but you can still provide this life-protecting liquid gold. Recent studies show that mothers infected with COVID-19 are unlikely to pass the infection to their newborns when appropriate health precautions are taken, such as wearing masks when nursing and following proper hand-washing and milk-handling protocols.
Have the needs for donor milk changed at all during COVID-19?
Needs are higher since COVID-19 reached the U.S. Some hospitals are taking precautions that include separating mothers from their babies if they test positive for COVID-19, and this separation, plus the resulting stress, can delay or prevent mom’s milk supply. So we’re seeing more babies needing donor milk to supplement their mom’s milk in the hospital and after discharge.
Is it safe to receive donor milk during COVID-19?
Yes! Donor human milk is pasteurized to eliminate bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19. We’re directly involved in supporting the research that has proven the effectiveness of pasteurization. That means that babies get all of the good stuff, with none of the risks.
What precautions are taken in the donation, collection and processing of donor milk during pandemic?
Milk donors who are diagnosed with or exposed to COVID-19 are unable to donate milk until virus-free. Even then, all milk is pasteurized to make it safe. We’re committed to the safest practices to ensure that all babies remain safe. Watch the whole preparation process here.
Mothers are right to be cautious during this unprecedented time, but from the early research being done, breastfeeding during a pandemic is still possible. And for mothers who are unable to breastfeed, donor milk is there to fill in the gap. Learn more about how human donor milk can be a life-saver for babies.
Do you want to talk to someone who has been where you are now? Request a peer mentor today and get connected, and supported by, a trained, NICU graduate peer mentor.
About Cat Nunnery
Cat Nunnery is a mother of two, one of whom is still breastfeeding, and has been a milk donor twice. She leads the Donor Experience team at Mothers’ Milk Bank Austin, the largest non-profit milk bank in the world with a mission to give breast milk to all babies who need it. Cat’s role lets her find creative ways to spread the word about milk donation and treat milk donors like the heroes they are for as long as they’re part of the milk bank community.