COVID-19, postpartum, and breastfeeding: Your questions answered

The coronavirus pandemic has left us all with a lot of questions. Here, the Ovia Health clinical team answers your questions about COVID-19, postpartum, and breastfeeding.

If I am infected with COVID-19 during delivery, what will happen to my baby after delivery?

If you are suspected of or are confirmed to have COVID-19 during your delivery, your baby will likely undergo testing to confirm their infection status and will be isolated from other healthy infants while receiving their normal newborn care[1]. You and your baby may be encouraged to share a room (“rooming-in”).

Can I breastfeed and have skin-to-contact with my baby if I am infected with COVID-19?

There are currently no known cases where COVID-19 infections have been transmitted through breast milk[2, 3], so breast milk itself is safe to feed your baby. 

Experts believe that it is reasonable to directly breastfeed your baby with proper precautions, such as wearing a mask and washing hands thoroughly [4]. We know that with other illnesses, you pass antibodies to your baby through your breast milk. Antibodies are what your body makes to help fight off illness. The research into COVID antibodies in breastmilk is really encouraging and suggests that antibodies are passed through breastmilk after infection or vaccination. More research is ongoing to determine how long antibodies are present after infection or vaccination.

Rooming-in and skin-to-skin contact are still recommended. While it is the birthing parent’s choice how to participate in these practices, there are many benefits, including better breastfeeding, temperature control, blood sugar, and parent-child bonding. Still, it is very important to wear a mask over your mouth and nose, and clean your hands frequently. And when you’re not nursing, it’s a good idea to have baby six feet away from you if possible.

Will my postpartum hospital experience be different than usual with COVID-19 restrictions?

Hospitals advise patients, visitors, and healthcare workers to wear masks at all times. While it varies with each hospital and each state, most hospitals are still limiting the number of visitors for patients. Prior to giving birth, you may want to check what the policy is for your place of delivery and make plans that are suited to your needs, which might include bringing a laptop or tablet to video chat with relatives or loved ones during your stay. Additionally, depending on your and your baby’s health, you may be able to request an early discharge to limit your exposure and be closer to family. Some hospitals are offering early discharges up to one day after a vaginal birth and two days following a cesarean section. 

Will I be separated from my baby if I have COVID-19?

Parents who are COVID-19 positive and coping well with their symptoms should NOT be separated from their baby after birth. [6]. Early on in the pandemic, experts had recommended separating babies from infected parents. In light of more information, that guidance has changed. Parents and babies should stay together according to groups including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), ACOG, CDC and WHO. 

If you have concerns about your particular situation, please bring them up with your healthcare provider, and make sure you fully understand all the risks and benefits.

What about my postpartum appointments? Should I still attend those?

Yes, you should still attend your appointments in order to get important postpartum care, including incision or wound checks, mental health assessments, and birth control planning. That said, many outpatient care providers are modifying postpartum visits to prevent potential COVID-19 exposures. Your provider may request that your appointment(s) be done via telehealth, particularly if you are not experiencing any alarming or worrisome symptoms. Mental health, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, is a major postpartum concern and standard perinatal depression screeners can be completed at home. In-office visits may still be necessary for those with underlying conditions, wound infections, or in the presence of other concerning symptoms. Ask your provider what option(s) are most appropriate for you, and don’t hesitate to call them if you have any concerns about your physical or mental wellbeing.

Should I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding?

Yes. It is the best way to protect your newborn and others. All people who are eligible to receive the vaccine at this time should be able to get it, if they so wish. Multiple, well-respected clinical organizations including the CDC and ACOG (the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) recommend people who are trying to conceive, pregnant, and breastfeeding get vaccinated against COVID [7]. For more information on the COVID-19 vaccines while breastfeeding head here

The first clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccines manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson did not include participants who were known to be pregnant or breastfeeding. This is typical for pharmaceutical research. Recent studies, however, have included those who are pregnant and breastfeeding and show that there is no increased risk for this group and that vaccines do not negatively impact pregnancy outcomes. 

Additionally, none of the COVID-19 vaccines contain “live” virus. This means you cannot get COVID-19 from the vaccines. In general, vaccines that do not contain “live” viruses are safe during pregnancy and do not have increased risks for infertility, miscarriage, fetal anomalies, or stillbirth. Side effects for the COVID-19 vaccines include pain at the site of injection, fever, fatigue, and chills. These typically go away after a couple of days. These side effects are normal and expected. They are indicators of your immune system doing its job to learn to protect you from the virus. On the other side, there have been reports of very rare, unexpected, reactions from the vaccines. A severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis can happen in very rare cases and the Johnson & Johnson vaccine has been linked with rare cases of dangerous blood clots [8]. The incidences of these adverse events are very low and getting vaccinated remains safer than potentially getting infected with COVID-19. [9].

Your midwife, doctor, or other healthcare professional is a great resource for more information about the COVID-19 vaccine. Ultimately, you are the one who knows what is best for your body and your family.

Should I get the COVID-19 booster if I’m breastfeeding?

The CDC recommends the booster shot for everyone six-months-old Vaccination or a booster while breastfeeding, especially with a MRNA vaccine, passes valuable antibodies to your nursling especially now that boosters are Omicron specific.

Reviewed by the Ovia Health Clinical Team
Updated January 30 2023

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