Should you be breastfeeding your baby if you’ve got a fever? An expert answers

Breastfeeding during this pandemic also comes with a unique set of dos and don’ts, especially if you have a fever or other signs of covid-19.
Air pollution exposure could lead to premature delivery. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
Sonakshi Kohli Updated: 1 Aug 2020, 05:31 pm IST
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If you’re a new mom, there probably are a zillion things you’re worried about and a gazillion questions when it comes to taking care of your baby. Surely all the solicited and unsolicited pieces of advice from friends and family, the impulsive panic calls to the gynaecologist, and all the excessive Googling would’ve helped answer some of your questions.

However, in the current scenario, when the world is facing a terrible pandemic, there might arise one pertinent question that might not have been a part of your baby conversations before: Should you be breastfeeding your baby if you’ve got a fever.

We got in touch with an expert to answer that one for you.

In case of a regular flu…
The covid-19 is definitely spreading like forest fire. So, every time someone has a slight fever or cough or simply even sneezes, it is assumed that the person is infected. The paranoia is valid, but not valid enough to cloud your better sense of judgement and make you forget that this is also the season of seasonal flu and regular viral fever.

Breastfeeding is safe if it’s just a seasonal flu. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

So, in case you’re suffering from a seasonal flu, Dr Preeti Bhadauria, senior consultant, obstetrics and gynaecology, Nayati Medicity, Mathura, recommends that you continue to breastfeed the baby while taking adequate precautions.

“Breast milk contains antibodies and other immunological factors that can help protect the infant from the flu. It remains the best source of nutrition for the infant, even while the mother is ill. Hence, a mother suffering from a flu can continue breastfeeding her infant while taking all possible precautions to avoid spreading the infection to her infant,” she says.

Also, read: This new study says mothers can safely breastfeed after receiving anesthesia

But, what if it’s covid?
As explained earlier, breast milk contains antibodies and anti-infective factors which can help protect the baby from several diseases and infections. 

Additionally, Bhadauria explains that infection spreads from one person to another through respiratory droplets when people cough, sneeze or talk. It also spreads when a person touches a surface or an object that has the flu virus on it and then touches his/her own mouth or nose.

Not to mention, according to the World Health Organization, women with covid-19 can breastfeed if they wish to, but they should take proper precautions. 

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This answers the question of covid-19 in breast milk. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

But, Dr Bhadauria is quick to mention: “To date, the novel coronavirus has not been detected in breast milk. However, as the disease is new, this evidence is based on limited studies.”

Therefore, it is better to not take a risk of letting the baby too close to you for breastfeeding or feed him/her with the milk you’ve managed to pump out despite your illness. Because with covid, you never really know, right? Even if you have suspected covid, do talk to your gynaecologist about breastfeeding your baby. 

Also, read: Say yes to breastfeeding if you want to avoid these 6 health risks

If you’ve decided to go for it, do take these precautions
A mother with flu should take appropriate precautions to avoid passing the flu to her infant as infants are at a high risk of serious flu-related complications,” says Dr Bhadauria and recommends the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for 20 seconds before touching the infant or any item that the infant will touch.
  • Follow respiratory hygiene/cough etiquette: Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue while coughing and/or sneezing, use disposable tissues, discard immediately after use, and wash your hands. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your upper arm or sleeve. All in all, you must avoid using your hands when coughing, use a mask always, turn away from other people when coughing and sneezing, and use a hand sanitizer after touching any respiratory secretions.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.
  • Wash your breasts with soap and water before breastfeeding.
Take proper precautions before breastfeeding your baby. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

What if you’re too unwell to breastfeed?
According to Dr Bhadauria, if you’re too unwell to breastfeed the baby, here’s what you can do:

  • Expressed breast milk: This can be fed to the infant by another healthy caregiver who follows hygiene precautions.
  • Relactation: You can opt for relactation, which is the process of resuming breastfeeding after a period of no or very little breastfeeding after recovery of the mother.
  • Use of donor human milk from certified milk banks.

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