Vivian Haughton, MSN, RN, CNS, IBCLC, CCE, a clinical nurse specialist and certified lactation consultant at Women & Babies Hospital, answers questions moms and moms-to-be are asking in the days of COVID-19.
Can my baby get COVID-19 from me if I catch it?
It is possible to transmit COVID-19 to your infant, so take precautions like thorough hand washing and wearing a mask if you must be near your baby. Otherwise, it is best to have a healthy caregiver who has not tested positive for COVID-19 provide hands-on care for your infant.
Can I still breastfeed my baby if I have COVID-19?
The answer is yes! Breast milk is still known to be the best source of nutrition for infants, and it provides protection against many illnesses according to the CDC. Data available at this time shows that breast milk is not likely to be a source of transmission of COVID-19.
It is important for a mother who is COVID-19 positive to take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant. This includes washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer before touching your infant, and wearing a mask while feeding at the breast.
If you are pumping your breasts or hand expressing your milk, the same information applies: wash your hands and wear a mask before touching the pump or other supplies. If possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver.
Are there best practices around expressing breast milk while I’m working?
It’s a good idea to practice pumping before you return to work so you are comfortable with using your breast pump. Pumping right after the first feeding in the morning is a great way to start. This will also help you to stash some milk in freezer storage before you go back to working.
Pumping both breasts at the same time will help make pumping faster and also gives hormones an added boost when you are away from your infant. Ideally you should pump as often as your infant feeds to maintain a good supply. If your breasts are full for longer periods of time, the cells that trigger production will slow down.
Talk with your employer ahead of time about your needs and know that most employers are required by law to provide time and a clean private place for you to pump. Learn how to have that conversation.
Are there changes to the NICU visitation policy?
At Women & Babies Hospital, currently one parent is allowed to come in to visit at a time. Parents who tested positive for COVID-19 or had exposure to someone who is positive, must be free of signs of illness. Masks must be worn at all times in the unit and good handwashing is always a priority in the NICU, and throughout the facility.