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?
If you have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having COVID-19 you and your baby can be supported to remain together while continuing to breastfeed or supply expressed breastmilk for your baby.2 Breastfeeding helps protect babies from a variety of illnesses and importantly keeps mothers and babies together.3 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 a 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.
· Seeing 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 state health department website.
Can breastfeeding women have the COVID-19 vaccine?
COVID-19 vaccinations are soon to be available in Australia. Unfortunately, pregnant and breastfeeding women were excluded from COVID-19 vaccine studies. However, based on what is known about similar vaccines, it is believed that the risks will be low. 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. While we wait for further information regarding guidance in Australia for this vaccine, it is important for each individual breastfeeding woman to discuss the potential risks and benefits of the vaccine with their doctor.
For further information about the COVID-19 vaccine and breastfeeding see:
World Health Organization
Interim recommendations for use of the Pfizer– BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, under Emergency Use Listing
ABM Statement: Considerations for COVID-19 Vaccination in Lactation (bfmed.org)
Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19 | ACOG
Vaccination Considerations for People who are Pregnant or Breastfeeding | CDC
COVID-19 Vaccine in Pregnancy and Breastfeeding | Infant Risk Center
Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine Frequently Asked Questions | FDA
Updated advice on COVID-19 vaccination in pregnancy and women who are breastfeeding (rcog.org.uk)
For further information about COVID-19 and breastfeeding, see:
World Health Organization:
· Home care for patients with suspected novel coronavirus (nCoV) infection presenting with mild symptoms and management of contacts
· Q&A on coronaviruses (COVID-19)
· INFANT & YOUNG CHILD FEEDING IN THE CONTEXT OF COVID-19
· COVID-19 and breastfeeding
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
For information on breastfeeding and other respiratory illnesses: Breastfeeding and influenza
Please be aware that some of our group get togethers and other events may be cancelled in the coming weeks, please check with your local group contact to get up to date information.
1. World Health Organization. Q and A on coronaviruses (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: breastfeeding and COVID-19. 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, Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know, Available at https://www.unicef.org/stories/novel-coronavirus-outbreak-what-parents-should-know Accessed March 2020
© Australian Breastfeeding Association January 2021
The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care providers.