Parenting and Breastfeeding Through COVID-19
Grace C., Texas
Editor’s Note: The following is the journey of one family with COVID-19. LLL USA realizes that illnesses can come with many levels of severity and that COVID-19 may affect your family to a greater degree. We encourage all families to seek the medical attention that they need to stay safe and well during this health crisis and in all health concerns.
Mothers get sick. We still take care of our children. Nursing mothers get sick. We still feed our babies. Every mother since the beginning of time has a story about being sick while trying to care for their children, how they just wanted to lie down to get some rest (or maybe cry), but instead made playdough cookies with their toddler. Or maybe they breastfed their infant with a trash can next to them in case they started throwing up again.
So when I tested positive for COVID-19 with a five-week-old and a two-year-old at home, I did what every mother has had to do — I took care of my children while I was sick. Sure, this was a new virus and there were a lot of unknowns, but try to explain that to a crying newborn or a toddler. I read what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and La Leche League had to say about nursing an infant and caring for children while sick with COVID-19, and I was scared. I was scared that I would get really sick and need to go to the hospital (I have asthma). I was scared that my husband would get sick. Most of all, I was scared that my children would get sick (my two-year-old also has asthma).
I had to keep telling myself that most cases of COVID-19 never even need medical attention. My family had been exposed to the virus the week prior to getting diagnosed, and it was a good possibility that my two-year-old already had it (she was very sick at the end of February). We also thought that maybe my husband might have had it just before I started getting sick. I knew the best protection for my newborn was breast milk, and while I was physically able, I would continue to breastfeed. I, of course, washed my hands about every 30 minutes and sanitized them a few times in between each washing. I showered and changed clothing often. I was also very aware of how I coughed, never held my baby close to my face, and tried my best not to even speak while holding her. But I continued to do skin-to-skin with her, and I continued to cuddle with my two-year-old as I felt it was just as important for them to have that comfort and not to be stressed.
It has now been four weeks since the onset of my symptoms, and I am happy to report that we have all made it through. It was pretty rough at times. One of the hard parts is that no one from the outside could come to help us. Normally when a mother gets sick, a family member or a friend comes over to help so she can get a little rest. That’s not so with this new virus. The isolation was almost unbearable at times. I am so grateful that my symptoms were manageable at home and I was able to care for and feed my children. Every time I nursed, I would tell myself I was literally giving my baby health and life, and that really helped when I just wanted to curl up and cry.
As we navigate the weeks and months and maybe even years ahead, we will have to adapt and change with so many things. How we help families to care for and feed their children is just one of them. I was lucky enough to have experience from nursing my toddler, and at five weeks my newborn was already a champion at nursing. But what if I had needed help to nurse while I was sick? How would I have access to help me keep feeding my baby? With the virus now in every corner of the world, it is more important than ever to help women across the globe to be able to provide the safest and most readily available food for their children – breast milk.
Editor’s Note: The current recommendations for breastfeeding and coronavirus are available on the LLL USA website at lllusa.org/coronavirus-and-breastfeeding/. While in person LLL meetings are temporarily suspended, help is still available online or over the phone. Find a Leader or online meeting at lllusa.org/locator/.
Becoming a mother is kind of like learning to swim. At some point, you take a little deeper breath, let go of the edge, start to paddle…and realize you’re doing it. Some of it is what you’ve learned, some of it is making the effort, and some of it is having faith in yourself. And you know what? Someday soon you’ll realize that you love swimming…and you’re good at it!”
The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, 8th edition, p. 103
No matter where you are in your journey, each day brings with it a mixture of joy and challenges. Each day strengthens the bond you have with your child and takes you one step further in this adventure. Trust yourself. Trust your baby. You’ve got this! Happy Mother’s Day!
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Supporting Breastfeeding Families–Today, Tomorrow, Always
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