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Wear The Gown: Breastfeeding with the coronavirus

Experts say even if a mother has the virus, breastfeeding benefits outweigh the risks.

SAN ANTONIO — Breastfeeding is a natural part of a baby and mother's life, and in most cases there would be no question that both benefit from it. But with the coronavirus pandemic in full swing, many mothers are wondering if it is still safe, especially if the mom has the virus. 

Physicians and world health bodies around the globe say breastfeeding your child even if you have coronavirus should still be done because the benefits outweigh the risks, with the risk of transmission extremely low, but there are things a mother should keep in mind while doing so. 

"The overall message is always for moms who are breast feeding should continue to breastfeed throughout an illness, whether it's her own or her baby's because of the protection that it provides to the baby," said Kate McLachlan, a lactation consultant with University Health System.

She says mothers should treat coronavirus like the flu when breastfeeding.

"We do talk to moms who we know were diagnosed with the flu to just use some precautions like ones that we are all becoming very familiar with now - handwashing, wearing a mask - when you are breastfeeding in order to prevent transmission to the baby," McLachlan said.

Now there is one more added step.

"The CDC guidelines also now include washing the chest before breastfeeding the baby just in case," McLachlan said. "We know it is respiratory droplets, but if some of the respiratory droplets got on the chest, it would probably be the safest thing to do to. Mask, wash hands, wash chest and then breastfeed baby."

Some of the benefits of breastfeeding include providing breast milk in real time programs the mother to create more milk. Studies have shown breastfeeding can make children smarter, it may reduce disease risk and breast milk contains important life-saving antibodies.

"If the mom has encountered an illness, a virus, a bacterial infection - something out in the world that she has been producing antibodies to that illness and providing these antibodies to the baby which is then protecting the baby," McLachlan said.

McLachlan also says spending that close time with the baby and that skin to skin contact is also necessary to create a strong mother-child bond.

For more information about family health, call (210) 358-3045. You can also find the rest of our Wear The Gown stories here.