The thought of getting coronavirus while breastfeeding your baby might feel worrying. Here are the facts.
Our breastfeeding counsellors have been receiving lots of questions about coronavirus and breastfeeding. So here we answer your most frequent questions…
Does breastmilk contain coronavirus?
From the limited evidence that is currently available, it’s not thought that breastmilk contains or can transmit coronavirus (RCOG, 2020). The biggest risk of infection is through close contact between mother and baby. We know that transmission is by airborne droplets from coughing and sneezing (RCOG, 2020).
Can I still breastfeed if I might or do have coronavirus?
Absolutely. In fact, experts think that the benefits of breastfeeding to bonding and feeding outweigh the potential risks of passing on the virus (RCOG, 2020). Breastmilk boosts a baby’s immune system (Unicef, 2020).
You might find it helpful to talk everything through with one of our breastfeeding counsellors, or your healthcare provider. You can call our Infant Feeding Support line for information and support: 0300 330 0700, between 8am and midnight.
How can I breastfeed more safely if I think I might have coronavirus?
Experts recommend the following precautions for breastfeeding (these also apply to parents using formula milk):
- Thorough hand washing before you touch your baby or anything to do with feeding. This may include nipple shields, breast pumps and dummies. Use soap and water and wash your hands for 20 seconds.
- Not sneezing or coughing on your baby – make sure you cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or sleeve when you sneeze or cough.
- Wearing a face mask, if available, while feeding.
- Very carefully follow sterilisation instructions for breastfeeding equipment after using it – for more information see our article about how to sterilise feeding equipment. This includes making sure all food preparation areas are clean, such as kitchen worktops.
- Potentially ask someone else to feed your baby your expressed breastmilk – see our article about expressing breastmilk for more information.
(NHS, 2020; RCOG, 2020)
Where can I go for support now many social activities have stopped?
It’s always helpful to talk to other women who are breastfeeding for support, tips and company. Although breastfeeding drop-ins may be closed to limit the spread of coronavirus, peer support can be found on most social media platforms online, like this one.
As well as support from our breastfeeding counsellors and your health care providers, our breastfeeding commissioned services are offering virtual breastfeeding support via zoom groups, text messaging and one- to-one calls.
If you live in any of these areas and would like some support from a breastfeeding peer supporter, please get in touch:
- Bradford - Bradford Breastfeeding Buddies
- Glasgow - Glasgow Breastfeeding Buddies
- Lothian - Lothian Breastfeeding Buddies
- Peterborough - Peterborough and Fenland Breastfeeding Support
- Southampton - Baby Cafe Southampton
Many of our local NCT branches are also providing online breastfeeding peer support via closed Facebook groups. Get in touch to find out more - search on your postcode and message your closest branch to see if they have any online peer support.
Will I be offered the coronavirus vaccine if I'm breastfeeding?
The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) say that it's safe for breastfeeding women to have the Covid-19 vaccination.
So if you are breastfeeding your baby, you should be offered the COVID-19 vaccine and booster. Further information can be found on the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists website: https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/guidelines-research-services/guidelines/coronavirus-pregnancy/covid-19-virus-infection-and-pregnancy/
A health professional such as a GP or midwife can talk you through the risks and benefits to help you make an informed decision about vaccination. Be aware that lots of anti-vaccine stories are spread online and they’re not based on scientific evidence. Find out more about breastfeeding and the vaccine here.
We support all parents, however you feed your baby. You can call our feeding support line on 0300 330 0700 (option 1) to talk to a breastfeeding counsellor about your questions or concerns, whether you’re breastfeeding, using formula milk or introducing solids. They have had extensive training, will listen without judging or criticising, and will offer relevant information and suggestions. The line is open everyday from 8am to midnight, including bank holidays.
Read the the NHS advice on what you should do when you’re self isolating.
Take a look at the latest public health guidance for pregnant women and parents.
Interactive, engaging and social, our live online antenatal course is a great way for you to meet other local parents, and get essential unbiased information and knowledge about pregnancy, birth and early days with your baby.
For more information about coronavirus in various languages see here.
For more information and support, click on the links to see our articles about:
Coping with self-isolation and being stuck at home with your baby
How to look after your baby when you’re not feeling well
Coronavirus: top tech and apps to keep you connected to friends
Dealing with anxiety over coronavirus
Coronavirus outbreak: surprising things you can get delivered
NHS. (2018) Can I take paracetamol while I'm breastfeeding? https://www.nhs.uk/common-health-questions/medicines/can-i-take-paracet…
NHS. (2020) Coronavirus (COVID-19). Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/ (accessed 18th March 2020)
RCOG. (2020b) Coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in pregnancy. Available at:
There is a newer version: https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/guidelines/coronavirus-covid-19-infection-in-pregnancy-v3-20-03-18.pdf (accessed 18th March 2020)
Unicef. (2020) Baby Friendly Initiative statement on infant feeding during the Covid-19 outbreak. Available at: https://www.unicef.org.uk/babyfriendly/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2020/03/Infant-feeding-during-the-Covid-19-outbreak.pdf (accessed 18th March 2020)