The UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative’s Baby Friendly Initiative Statement On Infant Feeding During The Covid-19 Outbreak factsheet (PDF, 152Kb) contains information about the importance of breastfeeding during the Covid-19 outbreak.
“There is a wealth of evidence that breastfeeding reduces the risk of babies developing infectious diseases. There are numerous live constituents in human milk, including immunoglobulins, antiviral factors, cytokines and leucocytes that help to destroy harmful pathogens and boost the baby’s immune system. Considering the protection that human milk and breastfeeding offers the baby and the minimal role it plays in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, it seems sensible to do all we can to continue to promote, protect and support breastfeeding.
To facilitate breastfeeding, mothers and babies should be enabled to stay together as much as possible, to have skin-to-skin contact, to feed their baby responsively and to have access to ongoing support when this is needed.
When mothers are partially breastfeeding they can be encouraged to maximise the amount of breastmilk they are able to give or, if they choose, to be supported to return to full breastfeeding. If mothers are considering stopping breastfeeding it is worth having a sensitive conversation about the value of continuing during the Covid-19 outbreak.”
For information on re-lactation for formula feeding women who now want to breastfeed, and increasing breast milk supply for women who had been mixed feeding who now want to breastfeed exclusively, to protect their babies from the virus, see the UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative’s Maximising Breastmilk And Supporting Re-Lactation factsheet (PDF, 158Kb).
If you are a breastfeeding mother and are feeling unwell, carrying on breastfeeding rather than expressing breastmilk may be easier for you, and will give your baby the most protection from infection. Alternatively, you may prefer for someone who is well to feed expressed breastmilk to your baby, which will still provide your baby protection from illness.
If you feel too unwell to carry on breastfeeding or express your breastmilk for your baby, you can be supported to re-lactate once well enough - see our Breastfeeding Support webpage for more details of who can help you.
For general information for parents who may have Covid-19 whilst caring for their baby please see the information below.
It is important to carefully follow guidance on washing and sterilising equipment when bottle feeding. Babies should also be bottle fed responsively; remember to pace their feeds and limit the number of people who feed them.
Visit our Information about feeding your baby webpage for more information about bottle feeding.
If you feel you may be infected with Covid-19, it is important to take precautions to reduce the chance of your baby also becoming ill by:
- Washing hands thoroughly before and after any contact with your baby
- Thoroughly and regularly cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces
- Carefully cleaning and sterilising any infant feeding equipment, including bottles, teats and breast pumps, before and after using them
- Avoiding coughing or sneezing on the baby during feeding and by wearing a face mask if possible
For more details visit The Baby Friendly Initiative’s Infant Feeding During The Covid-19 Outbreak webpage.
For an excellent summary of all this information, watch this video from Professor Amy Brown, Director of the centre for Lactation, Infant Feeding and Translation at Swansea University, for advice on breastfeeding and bottle feeding during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
As a new parent, you may be concerned that your baby could get coronavirus, although the risks are very low. This NHS Coronavirus: Parent information for newborn babies leaflet (PDF, 1Mb) tells you what to look out for and how to seek help if you have concerns.
If you need more general help and support during the Covid-19 Outbreak this Covid 19 - Local Support and National Helplines sheet (PDF, 473Kb) provides contact details of various local and national organisations.