Breastfeeding during a global pandemic is likely not something you ever thought you would be thinking about when you first got pregnant. To answer your questions, we caught up with lactation specialist Alison Ahern, BSN, RN, IBCLC and founder of Nestled. Alison is one of Binto’s Telehealth providers and our go-to for all things breastfeeding.
There’s a lot of information out there right now about coronavirus and prenatal care - and it’s changing every day. For those who are planning to deliver in the midst of COVID-19, we wanted to share an update on what you can expect to see in the hospital, and how you can prepare at home.
Before you deliver:
We encourage you to educate yourself prior to delivery so you can fully understand the options available to you. It’s very possible that your hospital experience during COVID-19 will be different than what you expect. Just in case you’re not in the hospital for a long period of time, or your doula cannot help you as planned, or hospitals don’t have their usual resources to support you, knowing which questions to ask and the support you’ll require postpartum will help you navigate your hospital stay during this confusing time.
You can find webinars, Zoom group classes or 1:1 classes with providers to get the basics and feel prepared ahead of time. Research shows the earlier you educate yourself during pregnancy, the more likely it is that you’ll be successful in your postpartum plan, however that looks (1).
At the hospital:
Even if you’ve done the research, your hospital stay might not go exactly as you planned throughout your pregnancy. Hospitals may be limiting the amount of staff on-site each day, and your provider may no longer be able to support you. Don’t worry, this doesn’t mean you’re now on your own when it comes to breastfeeding your newborn. Many nurses are equipped to help you with the basics after you deliver. Lactation consultants are likely able to help you through video chat or phone consultations. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Don’t assume that what you read or hear from others about changes and hospital regulations around coronavirus are going to be true at your hospital or birth center.
Ask direct questions to the staff at your hospital. Confirm what’s going to be available to you on your delivery date, so you and your support person can be prepared.
Continue breastfeeding and pumping as you normally would. Remember that as you breastfeed, you are helping your body build immunity and pass that immunity on to your baby through your breastmilk. (Just as your body would build immunity against a cold or flu.) Alison recommends that you keep the following tips in mind as well:
Always wash your hands before breastfeeding or pumping. Make sure you are cleaning your pump parts with warm, soapy water after every use.
The best way to keep you and your baby safe from the virus is by staying home, if you can. If you leave the house for any reason, make sure you wash your hands thoroughly before touching or picking up your baby. Remember to also regularly clean any high touch surfaces, such as kitchen counters, doorknobs, and your phone.
It is also a good idea to limit contact with people other than those you live with to reduce the risk of bringing the virus into your home. This can be challenging when you have an adorable new baby and all your relatives want to meet him or her, but for the safety of your entire household, stick to Facetime or Zoom introductions for now.
If you order products online, make sure to take them out of their packaging as soon as they arrive and wash them thoroughly before bringing them near you or your baby. It’s even a good idea to wipe down containers of formula before storing them in your house, just in case.
If you are positive for COVID-19 or experiencing any symptoms, you should wear a mask around your baby. The CDC recommends that you cover your face with a cloth or mask to avoid spreading the virus to others, even if you don’t feel sick. Just to be on the safe side, wear a mask while you feed your baby to protect them from getting sick. Try to use a cloth or homemade mask, in order to save the disposable PPE masks for our healthcare workers.
If you are experiencing symptoms, you can still safely feed your baby. COVID-19 hasn’t yet been found in breastmilk, so you do not have to worry about spreading the virus to your little one through breastfeeding.
That being said, do not put a mask on your baby. Cloth face masks should not be placed on children under 2, or anyone who is unable to remove the mask without assistance, in order to prevent suffocation.
3. Keep extra breastmilk
According to Alison, “Now is the time for a freezer stash.” If you are currently breastfeeding, or planning to during COVID-19, it might be time to begin pumping and storing your breastmilk.
If you recently gave birth or are about to, you may be aware of the “4-week rule” for breastfeeding, where you refrain from pumping for 4 weeks in order to give your baby a chance to learn how to breastfeed first. While this rule can be helpful to many women who are looking to breastfeed exclusively, it’s important to also consider our current global situation and prepare yourself the best that you can.
If you know your supply is borderline for what your baby needs, or you rely on a supplement in any way, Alison recommends that you pump as often as possible in order to keep a backup supply of breastmilk for your baby. Don’t worry, we’re not saying that you need to pump 24/7. Just in case formula becomes difficult to find, stores run low on stock or you’re stuck with long shipping times due to this crisis, you’ll be grateful to have a backup.
At BINTO, we know that having a newborn baby is overwhelming enough, without the added stress of a global pandemic. We don’t want to scare you, or cause any panic. Most of all, we want you to feel prepared for anything.
We are here for you!
If you have any questions or just want to chat, you can always reach out to our health professionals at firstname.lastname@example.org, through the chat portal on our website, or DM us on Instagram!
- Thussanasupap, B., Lapvongwatana, P., Kalampakorn, S., & Spatz, D. L. (2016). Effects of the Community-Based Breastfeeding Promotion Program for Working Mothers: A Quasi-experimental Study. Pacific Rim International Journal of Nursing Research, 20(3), 196–209. Retrieved from https://he02.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/PRIJNR/article/view/43772/51222