COVID-19 and breast milk
 

Impacts of COVID-19 on Breast Milk

COVID-19 presents real risks to the safety of mothers and their babies. Given that many babies primarily feed through breast milk’s direct transmission, there is reasonable concern about passing the virus onto a baby during feeding. A recent study published in the American Journal of Pediatrics tells us more about what we should and should not be concerned about.

COVID-19 RNA is detectable in the milk of infected mothers. In other words, if you have COVID-19, your breastmilk may contain it. Studies have also shown that the children of infected mothers who were breastfeeding tested positive for the virus. Still, that doesn’t prove that the babies received the virus through breastmilk transmission. At the time of this study, there has been no recorded transmission of COVID-19 directly from mother to baby through breastmilk consumption.  

Breastmilk is such a nutrient-dense food for young babies that it isn’t recommended to avoid breastfeeding babies whenever possible. The nutrients, hormones, and immune-boosting benefits of breastmilk are vital in the growth of newborns. At this time, the World Health Organization recommends that mothers who have had COVID-19 continue to breastfeed so long as they maintain strict hygiene practices. 

Pasteurizing Breastmilk

Researchers explored pasteurizing breastmilk impacts to see if it would reduce COVID-19 content within the sample sizes. They used five samples of healthy breastmilk from donors and then spiked the breast milk with the virus. They then heated the samples to 63°C (145°F) or let them rise to room temperature over 30 minutes.  

The room temperature samples remained infected. Although there were some fluctuations in the viral content decreases, which lead researchers to believe breastmilk may have some anti-viral properties. Therefore if you are a mother who has tested positive for COVID-19, you should not count on letting breastmilk rise to room temperature as an effective way to avoid transmitting the disease to your child. 

The results detected no viral infectivity in the samples after the heating process for the pasteurized samples. The studies conclude that human breastmilk containing the COVID-19 virus can be neutralized using standard Holder pasteurization methods.  

For mothers

If you’re concerned about breastfeeding your baby after a COVID-19 infection but don’t want to switch to a pure formula diet, you have now have tested alternatives. Pasteurizing milk at your home is easy. 

  1. Ideally, have a stainless steel pot or double boiler on hand. If you do not, don’t worry—you’ll need to pay close attention to the milk during the process.
  2. Heat the milk to 63°C (145°F) at a low to medium heat. Stir often.
  3. Hold 63°C (145°F) temperature for precisely 30 minutes.
  4. Remove the pot from the stove and put it into an ice bath in your sink. If you have no ice available, use cold water. You want to drop the temperature down to 4.5°C (40°F).
  5. Store the pasteurized milk in a well-sealed container in your refrigerator.

That’s it! Home pasteurization is an easy and effective way to ensure the safety of yourself and your baby when drinking breast milk that may be contaminated.  

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