The RCOG states that ‘person-to-person spread is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza (flu) and other respiratory pathogens spread’.
It continues, explaining that the virus has not been detected in breast milk, ‘however we do not know whether mothers with COVID-19 can transmit the virus via breast milk’.
The CDC advises mothers with flu to continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk to her child ‘while taking precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant’.
'A woman and her partner can be kept together with the baby following birth, as long as the baby is well and does not require care in a neonatal unit,' a spokesperson from the RCOG explains'.
‘Breast milk is full of antibodies,’ explains Murray. ‘By breastfeeding your child, you’re also doing the best for yourself in terms of your state of mind – keeping your adrenaline levels down, oxytocin levels up – unless you’re told otherwise.'
Given the uncertainties surrounding the virus at this stage, the RCOG recommends that women:
- Wash their hands before touching the infant and wear a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast
- Try to avoid coughing or sneezing on your baby while breast feeding
- Wash their hands before touching any manual or electric breast pump or bottle parts
- Consider having someone who is well feed the expressed breast milk to the infant.
When it comes to skin-to-skin contact, it is up to the mother whether she wants to do so with her child.
The RCOG says: ‘There are some reports from China which suggest women with confirmed coronavirus have been advised to separate from their baby for 14 days. However, this may have potential negative effects on feeding and bonding.’
Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, adds: 'We don't want to see the mother and baby separated, even when the mother tests positive for coronavirus. Similarly, our advice is that it's fine to breastfeed – any potential risks are outweighed by the benefits. We will continue to review the evidence as it emerges.'