COVID-19 and Breastfeeding

Last updated: March 16, 2022

Can I breastfeed my baby if I’m sick with coronavirus?

Yes, you can breastfeed your baby if sick with COVID-19.

Based on the best available evidence and statements from the World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19.

Directly from WHO: “WHO recommends that mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate or continue to breastfeed. Mothers should be counselled that the benefits of breastfeeding substantially outweigh the potential risks for transmission.”

The CDC states, “Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread the virus to babies.”

Are there precautions that I should take while nursing my baby?

There are precautions that anyone who is sick should take while caring for a baby, no matter the feeding method. According to the CDC guidelines, those who wish to breastfeed while sick should:

  • Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub and especially before touching the baby.
  • Wear a medical mask during any contact with the baby, including while feeding.

If pumping to provide expressed milk for your child, proper normal hand washing and pump washing safety protocols.

Are there benefits to breastfeeding while I’m sick with coronavirus? 

According to La Leche League International, breastfeeding is the best means of protecting a baby from getting sick or of reducing the severity of a baby’s illness if a baby does become ill.

From the WHO, “Breastfeeding unquestionably reduces mortality in newborns and infants and provides numerous lifelong health and brain development advantages to the child. Mothers with symptoms of COVID-19 are advised to wear a medical mask, but even if this is not possible, breastfeeding should be continued. Mothers should follow other infection prevention measures, such as washing hands, cleaning surfaces, sneezing or coughing into a tissue.”

From the CDC: “Breast milk provides protection against many illnesses. There are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk is not recommended.”

In addition, scientists are currently exploring how antibodies play a role in protecting nursing children from COVID-19.

Are there risks to stopping or pausing nursing while sick with coronavirus? 

Yes, there are risks to stopping or pausing nursing while sick with coronavirus.

They include:

  • Problems for the nursing parent associated with sudden weaning including higher risk for mastitis.
  • a child at greater risk from becoming ill. Nursing parents pass on antibodies in their milk to pathogens to which they are exposed. Children who are weaned do not benefit from these protective antibodies.
  • Difficulties going back to nursing at the breast after the illness has passed. Many babies struggle to transition back to the breast after an extended time without nursing.
  • Significant emotional trauma for the nursing child who receives both nutrition and comfort from nursing.

Dr. Alison Stuebe, MD, President of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, outlines “several risks of separating mothers and infants in the hospital, which disrupts breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact during the critical hours and days following birth. For example, infants who lack skin-to-skin contact with their mothers tend to have higher heart rates and respiratory rates and lower glucose levels. The separation also stresses the mother, which could make it more difficult for her to fight off the viral infection. In addition, separation interferes with the provision of maternal milk to the infant, which is important for the development of the infant’s immune system. Separation also disrupts breastfeeding, which puts the infant at increased risk of severe respiratory infections, including pneumonia and COVID-19.”

Can my baby get coronavirus through my milk? 

There is no evidence to suggest that babies have become sick with COVID-19 through human milk.

The World Health Organization states: “Transmission of active COVID-19 (virus that can cause infection) through breast milk and breastfeeding has not been detected to date. There is no reason to avoid or stop breastfeeding.”

The World Health Organization also states, “If you are too unwell to breastfeed your baby due to COVID-19 or other complications, you should be supported to safely provide your baby with breast milk in a way possible, available, and acceptable to you. This could include:

  • Expressing milk;
  • Donor human milk.”

The CDC states, “Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not likely to spread the virus to babies.”

Do I have to separate from my baby if I’m sick with coronavirus? 

No, the World Health Organization, the CDC, and the AAP all encourage staying with your nursing baby while sick with COVID-19.

The WHO encourages close contact between mother and baby including in the immediate postpartum period. They state: “Mothers and infants should be enabled to remain together and practise skin-to-skin contact, kangaroo mother care and to remain together and to practise rooming-in throughout the day and night, especially immediately after birth during establishment of breastfeeding, whether they or their infants have suspected, probable, or confirmed COVID-19.”

Can my baby have my milk if we are separated? 


According to the World Health Organization, “If you are too unwell to breastfeed your baby due to COVID-19 or other complications, you should be supported to safely provide your baby with breast milk in a way possible, available, and acceptable to you. This could include:

  • Expressing milk;
  • Donor human milk.

If expressing breast milk or donor human milk are not feasible then consider wet nursing (another woman breastfeeds the child) or infant formula milk with measures to ensure that it is feasible, correctly prepared, safe and sustainable.”

Can I receive a COVID-19 vaccine if I am breastfeeding or pumping? 

La Leche League Leaders across the country are being asked the same question by families: “Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for those who are breastfeeding?” This is a developing topic. Please find statements from leading organizations below. 

From InfantRisk Center: “Similar to other medications, pregnant and/or breastfeeding women have not been included in studies to determine how well COVID vaccines work or how safe they are. Based on what we understand from similar vaccines, we believe the risks that come with vaccination will probably be low. Therefore, while we wait for more information, each mother and provider should discuss what choice fits their situation best. The risk and benefit of the vaccine should be compared to each mother’s individual risk for getting COVID-19 as well as how well she is expected to tolerate the disease.”

Find a statement from the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine: “Although there is currently no clinical data on use of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in lactation, the United States Food and Drug administration EUA left open the possibility of administering the vaccine to both pregnant and lactating individuals.
Many lactating individuals fall into categories prioritized for vaccination, such as front-line health care workers. The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine does not recommend cessation of breastfeeding for individuals who are vaccinated against COVID-19. Individuals who are lactating should discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination with their health care provider, within the context of their risk of contracting COVID-19 and of developing severe disease. Health care providers should use shared decision making in discussing the benefits of the vaccine for preventing COVID-19 and its complications, the risks to mother and child of cessation of breastfeeding, and the biological plausibility of vaccine risks and benefits to the breastfed child.
These conversations are challenging, because the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine trial excluded lactating individuals. As a result, there are no clinical data regarding the safety of this vaccine in nursing mothers. However, there is little biological plausibility that the vaccine will cause harm, and antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in milk may protect the breastfeeding child.”

From American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “COVID-19 vaccines should be offered to lactating individuals similar to non-lactating individuals.”

From the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.

Find info from the CDC . 

La Leche League Leaders are parent volunteers and not health care professionals. While Leaders are not permitted to tell you if a medication is safe, they are able to provide information about medications to help you make an informed decision. Find your local LLL Leader through our Find Help! zip code search tool.
Find out more general info about medications and breastfeeding here


You may find the following links helpful: 

Parenting During Uncertain Times, LLL USA

My Experience Breastfeeding with COVID-19, LLL USA blog

Medications and Breastfeeding, LLL USA

Milk Donation and Milk Sharing, LLL USA

Skin to Skin Care, LLLI

Breastfeeding, Childbirth, and COVID-19, LLLI

Continuing to Nurse Your Baby Through Coronavirus (2019-nCoV; COVID-19) and Other Respiratory Infections, LLLI



Please contact a local LLL Leader with your specific questions.

Medical questions and legal questions should be directed to appropriate health care and legal professionals.