COVID-19 and Immune Boosting Breastfeeding Tips
The Breastfeeding Center of Charleston is here to help mothers who choose to breastfeed to provide their newborns immune-boosting breast milk. Here are some helpful facts to help you safely and successfully breastfeed during COVID-19.
First and foremost, breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants.
- Breastmilk contains large amounts of the mother’s immune fighting cells called immunoglobulins, especially IgA, which can help neutralize infection and prevent inflammation.
- White blood cells called leukocytes also pass to the baby through the breastmilk and help fight infection
- Human Milk Oligosaccharides (sugars) can help by binding to harmul bacteria.
- Lactoferrin in breastmilk can help stall bacteria from replicating by binding to iron
- Some studies suggest that breastmilk may help an infant’s immune system to develop faster and babies that are breastfed have better antibody response to vaccinations.
For all mothers of newborns during the Coronavirus Pandemic:
- Continue to follow basic newborn safety guidelines such as keeping your baby protected during the first 4-6 weeks of life while their immune system is developing.
- Ensure that anyone around your baby is healthy and has not been exposed to coronavirus. All caregivers should wear masks and wash their hands frequently when providing care for your baby.
- No one kisses baby except you and dad.
- Ideally, family who comes to visit with you and baby should be adhering to strict social distancing for 2 weeks before the visit.
- Avoid large numbers of visitors into the home; consider drive-by visits, outside visits, or online platforms to see the baby.
- Consider the benefits of help and support a visitor may bring vs the risks of a new visitor into the house.
- Use your pediatrician as a resource. We can help guide you through any changes in CDC and AAP guidelines. If your comfort levels are more conservative than your family’s you can always blame your pediatrician!
Guidelines for COVID positive Breastfeeding Mothers
- At this time, we do not know for sure if mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus to babies in their breast milk, but the limited data available suggest this is not likely.
- If you have COVID-19 and choose to breastfeed:
- Wear a face mask while breastfeeding and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before each feeding.
- If you inadvertently sneeze or cough onto your breast, wash the area before putting baby to the breast.
If you have COVID-19 and choose to express breast milk:
- Use a dedicated breast pump (not shared).
- Wear a mask during expression and wash your hand and lower arms with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
- Ensure that you are cleaning pump parts and any surface they come in contact with after each use. Parts should be sterilized once daily.
- If possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver who does not have COVID-19, is not at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and is living in the same home.
Ideally, regardless of how you choose to feed your baby, if you are positive for COVID19, your baby should be primarily cared for by a non-infected adult and distanced from any COVID positive family members.
Top 10 Tips for New Moms
Dr. Bess Milliron
Being a new mom is both exciting and stressful. While baby books may help, often times when your sweet bundle of joy arrives, your world changes. Medical Director, Bess Milliron from the Breastfeeding Center of Charleston shares 10 helpful tips for new moms.
- Seek breastfeeding support. Breastfeeding may be natural, but it is not easy. I wish someone had recommended for me to reach out to a lactation consultant with my first baby. Things were going relatively well, but I could have avoided suffering through sore nipples and made pumping more efficient had a reached out to professional support. I recommend to new moms to see lactation soon after they are discharged from the hospital because a lot of things change in those first couple days home. When looking for a lactation consultant, look for one that is an IBCLC which is the highest certification in the lactation world and get personal feedback from other mom friends. A good IBCLC should be there to support your feeding goals and optimize your breastfeeding experience. The Breastfeeding Center of Charleston always here to support local moms.
- Find your tribe. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes you have to really seek out that village. Reach out to friends that have children for support. Join mom groups or lactation support groups in your area. Having a shared experience can allow you to learn from your peers and have your struggles validated if you hit road bumps in child-rearing. Zoom with friends and family if you are not able to get there in person.
- Don’t hesitate to take offers for help. New moms often do not know what to ask others to do or feel that they should be doing everything themselves. Try to open up and have tasks for others to support you. Family and friends can make meals that you can freeze, run errands for you so you can stay and snuggle with baby, wash bottles and pump parts, or hold your baby so you can get a much-needed nap.
- Invest in a good Velcro swaddle. Babies like to be secure and snuggled. At night a swaddle can help recreate this so you can put the baby down. Babies are little Houdini’s and can get out of the best swaddle blanket. A Velcro swaddle makes the middle of the night swaddles so much easier, as well as, safer as there are no loose pieces of the blanket that may come out. I am partial to the Halo baby swaddles. Make sure you get a couple to rotate in case you have a middle of the night spit up or diaper disaster. Always make sure you transition baby out of the swaddle when they are learning to roll to adhere to safe sleep guidelines.
- Coconut oil really does work for everything. I prefer to have moms use this rather than lanolin for nipple soothing. It is safe for baby so no need to wipe off before the next feeding. It has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties so it can help with cracked nipples as well. There have been good studies to show it has benefits with infant eczema and it can also be used with cradle cap to help soften flakes.
- Be a smart shopper with infant clothes. Babies can be messy with spit up and blow out diapers. Some will be born too big for the newborn sizes and they continue to grow quickly in the first couple months of life. Buy clothes in the first couple of months from discount stores or take hand me downs from friends/family. Even if that little jean jacket and bowtie or ballerina skirt is the cutest thing ever, I guarantee they will only get used for pictures. Skip the snaps and ties and go for magnetic closures or zippers for easier transitions. Save the photo-ready outfits for toddlerhood.
- Keep spare baby items in the car. You will always run out of clean diapers at the least opportune time. Keeping spare diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes for baby in the care can be helpful when you are in a pinch. Add some extra baby toys, baggies to put soiled clothes in, diaper cream, and teething rings too. A change of clothes for mom is always a smart idea. It was always at daycare drop off on the way to work when my son would spit up on me. Having the change of clothes helped me avoid odd stares about the mystery substance on my shoulder for the rest of the day.
- Start good sleep hygiene early. While I don’t schedule babies in the newborn period I do recommend having a consistent bedtime routine. This will help your baby learn patterns at night and start to associate the routine with sleep. Dim lighting, a favorite lullaby, baby massage, whatever is in your routine to help set patterns. Always adhere to safe sleep guidelines of a firm surface without any loose blankets or pillows. As your baby ages, try putting them down drowsy, but awake so they are aware of their sleep environment.
- Read to your baby. Even in the newborn period reading, singing, and talking to your baby is so important. Your voice is soothing to your baby. Reading and singing to them can promote bonding. Babies will learn from the tone, rhythm, and inflection of your voice as they grow. Studies have shown that babies that are exposed to more language and that are read to as newborns have better verbal skills at age three and may learn to read sooner themselves than their peers. You are also setting them up for a great shared experience as they grow and a love of books.
- Educate yourself on postpartum depression and anxiety. A subject that is not often talked about between friends or family, but that so many moms experience. 70-80% of women will experience at minimum the baby blues and a new study has shown that as many as 1 in 7 will go on to experience true postpartum depression or anxiety in the first year postpartum. It is important to have a support person educated on this as well so they can be a second set up eyes for your wellbeing. Find resources in your area to learn more and seek help if needed. MUSC Women's Reproductive Behavioral Health Program and Postpartum Support Charleston are two great sources of support in the Charleston area.