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COVID-19

 

COVID-19

 

 

 


What is coronavirus (COVID-19) and what are its symptoms? 

COVID-19 is a new strain of coronavirus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).1 Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, cough and shortness of breath.1 

 

Can you still breastfeed if you have COVID-19? 

Yes. The latest evidence is overwhelmingly in support of continued breastfeeding with appropriate precautions.2If you have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having COVID-19 you and your baby can be supported to remain together while continue to breastfeed or supply expressed breastmilk for your baby.3 Breastfeeding helps protect babies from a variety of illnesses and provides lifelong health benefits.2 This is because breastmilk contains antibodies and other immune protective factors.  If you have stopped breastfeeding there is help available to restart, please call the Breastfeeding Helpline for support. 

 

What if you are too unwell to breastfeed? 

If you are too unwell to breastfeed your baby, another option is to express regularly so that your baby keeps receiving your breastmilk and so is less likely to become unwell. Before expressing, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If using a breast pump, it is important to ensure proper cleaning is followed. See our article Expressing and storing breastmilk for more information. 

 

Will my supply reduce if I have COVID-19? 

Some mothers notice a supply drop when they are unwell. If this happens to you, you can call to speak to an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor for support, see a lactation consultant or visit your medical advisor. You may also find it helpful to read our article Increasing supply. 

 

How can I reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others? 

Even if you don’t have symptoms of COVID-19, there are things we can all do in order to minimise the chances of spreading COVID-19. For example, it is important to: 

  • Wash your hands often using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitiser. 

  • Cover your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing, and immediately throwing away any used tissues. 

  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms. 

  • See a doctor if you develop even the mildest of symptoms including a runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat etc.1 

 

For the latest information about COVID-19 where you live, refer to your local state or territory health department website. 

 

Can breastfeeding women have the COVID-19 vaccine? 

There is no reason why breastfeeding women should be in a different category than non-breastfeeding women when it comes to receiving an Australian Government approved COVID-19 vaccine. However, there may be additional benefits for breastfeeding women receiving a COVID-19 vaccine due to maternal antibodies being passed onto the baby via breastmilk.4 

Australia's Department of Health has indicated that breastfeeding women can get an approved COVID-19 vaccine and don't need to stop breastfeeding before or after. Discuss with your General Practitioner if you have specific concerns or related medical history.  

The World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that breastfeeding women be vaccinated against COVID-19 whenever they are part of a group of people for whom vaccination is recommended. The WHO also recommends that women continue breastfeeding after vaccination. 

Each individual breastfeeding woman should consult with their doctor if they have concerns about receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. 

 

Will the COVID-19 vaccine affect me or my baby? 

Research from several small studies has shown that breastfeeding mothers experience similar side effects to the general population following vaccination.5 Serious adverse reactions are rare. One common side effect is the swelling of lymph nodes, often in areas close to the injection site such as the armpit. Recent data shows this is now the most frequently reported side effect following booster doses.6 

 

In breastfeeding women, swollen lymph nodes can sometimes be mistaken for blocked milk ducts, or cause a true blocked duct to be overlooked. If you experience this symptom look out for other signs of a blockage, such as: 

  • lumps or engorgement in one area 

  • redness of the skin over that area 

  • baby fussing at the breast 

  • the breast not softening fully after a feed 

  • reduced milk output if expressing 

  • signs of mastitis developing, such as fever, chills and body aches. 

 

If you think you may have a blocked duct, feed your baby often and try some of these tips to help clear it. You may also find it helpful to talk to a breastfeeding counsellor on the National Breastfeeding Helpline. In the absence of any other signs, swollen lymph nodes following vaccination usually resolve without treatment after a week or so.6 If swelling persists, see your medical provider to rule out other causes. 

 

COVID-19

For further information about COVID-19 infection, vaccines and breastfeeding see: 

Australian Department of Health 

World Health Organization 

UNICEF 

United States  

New Zealand 

United Kingdom  

Queensland Health 

For more information 

If breastfeeding has stopped, there is information and support available on how to restart:Relactation and induced breastfeeding 

Information is also available to reduce formula top-ups and increase breastmilk feeds: How to wean off formula supplements 

 

 

References 

1. World Health Organization. Q&A: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19). https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-coronaviruses (Accessed August 2020).  

2. World Health Organization. Q&A: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and breastfeeding. https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/question-and-answers-hub/q-a-detail/q-a-on-covid-19-and-breastfeeding (Accessed August 2020). 

3. UNICEF. COVID-19: Frequently asked questions. 

4. Narayanaswamy, V. M. S., Pentecost, B. T., Schoen, C. N.,Alfandari, D., Schneider, S. S., Baker, R. B. S., Arcaro, K. F. (2022). Neutralizing Antibodies and Cytokines in Breast Milk After Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) mRNA Vaccination.Obstetrics & Gynecology, 139(2). pp181-191. https://doi.org/10.1097/AOG.0000000000004661 

5. Bertrand, K., Honerkamp-Smith, G., & Chambers, C. D. (2021). Maternal and child outcomes reported by breastfeeding women following messenger RNA COVID-19 vaccination. Breastfeeding Medicine, 16(9), 697–701. 

6. Australian Government Therapeutic Goods Administration. (2022). COVID-19 vaccine weekly safety report - 06-01-2022. 

Last reviewed: 
Jan 2022