As a mother myself, breastfeeding specialist and author, I’d love to share insights for new and expecting moms who need to know how to safely breastfeed and confidently bond with your baby during COVID-19:
1. Rest assured: Your breastmilk is still a safe bet. According to the CDC, breastmilk is still the best source of nutrition for most infants and is believed safe to consume even after mom has been infected. In limited reports of lactating women infected with SARS-CoV,* virus was not detected in breast milk, and antibodies against SARS-CoV were detected in at least one sample.
2. Reduce stress in any way you can. This is a stressful time to have a baby, and anxiety can have a substantial impact on a child’s developing oxytocin systems. Oxytocin helps us relate to others, strengthens trust, fosters closeness in relationships, and can be triggered by eye contact, empathy, or touch. Studies show a new mother’s oxytocin levels can influence her behavior and, as a result, the bond she makes with her baby – so reduce stress in any way you can.
3. Focus on the first two weeks. Most breastfeeding problems occur in the first two weeks of a child’s life, leading many moms to give up too early. Your focus, in the beginning, should be to make it past these first two weeks before throwing in the towel.
4. Supplementing with formula is perfectly okay. Some mothers cannot find adequate time to pump or simply cannot produce enough milk to completely nourish baby with breast milk alone—don’t give up! Just one drop of breastmilk contains one million white blood cells. If your baby gets at least 1 teaspoon of breastmilk per day, they will still get the antibody benefits and bacteria-eating cells that are so important to a developing immune system.
5. Stay connected to what really matters. Finding answers to your questions can be frustrating. When you look online, less than half of the websites on breastfeeding are accurate. What really matters is the scientific evidence, so look for published research and (preferably) “randomized triple blinded” studies. In the end, trust your gut, love your baby, and take care of yourself. After delivery, your left brain stops working as well, so you may find yourself experiencing more emotions than logic (much like when you were a teenager). Don’t give in to guilt, focus on learning through experience, and build that family unit with lots of skin-to-skin contact!
Editor’s Note: Here at Red Tricycle, we respect and celebrate every mom’s feeding journey. Bottle? Boob? It doesn’t matter—we believe fed is best. Our Spoke Contributor Network is inclusive and open to all parenting journeys—yours, too!