Can my breastmilk have the novel coronavirus in it?

Written by Rachel Hoying, BS and Daniel T. Robinson, MD, MSc

Has the novel coronavirus been found in breastmilk? 

Women with COVID can transmit the virus into their breastmilk. However, a recent study found that virus detected in breastmilk could not replicate. This means that the virus would not cause an infection in a breastfeeding infant. Still, it is important to know that information is limited. 

Can I continue breastfeeding if I tested positive for coronavirus? What if I have symptoms of COVID-19 but haven’t been tested? 

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the World Health Organization all recommend that women with COVID continue breastfeeding. Even so, you should discuss your specific situation with your infant’s doctor. 

In a small group of breastfeeding infants born to women with novel coronavirus, no infant tested positive for the virus. Importantly, mothers of those infants were advised to wear personal protective equipment (masks) and wash their hands when breastfeeding or pumping milk. Household contacts were also advised to wear masks and wash their hands regularly.

To boil it down: when breastfeeding, you should wash your hands immediately before and wear an appropriate face covering. If you use a breast pump, wash your hands before and after handling the pumping equipment and wear a mask while pumping. Wash the pump parts as recommended. 

Could my breastmilk protect my infant from getting sick with COVID-19?

In a small group of mothers with novel coronavirus, all of their breastmilk contained antibodies against the virus. Antibodies are proteins made by your immune system to fight infections. We need more information to understand whether those antibodies are effective at fighting off the novel coronavirus in infants. 

Last update: 11.11.2020, 11:30am ET

Science review: JAB, ERS