The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated there is no evidence of live coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) in human milk. Although a handful of reports have shown RNA to be present in some mothers, these are thought to be fragments of the virus that could help the infant immune system recognise and fight the virus in future. There is no evidence of the virus being transmitted from mother to baby through breastfeeding.
The Director General of the WHO made these comments on the safety of human milk on the 12th June:
WHO has also carefully investigated the risks of women transmitting COVID-19 to their babies during breastfeeding.
We know that children are at relatively low-risk of COVID-19, but are at high risk of numerous other diseases and conditions that breastfeeding prevents.
Based on the available evidence, WHO’s advice is that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of COVID-19.
Mothers with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be encouraged to initiate and continue breastfeeding and not be separated from their infants, unless the mother is too unwell.
WHO has detailed information in our clinical guidance about how to breastfeed safely.
Through our work with the newly formed Global Alliance of Milk Banks and Associations, we have worked round the clock since January to stay ahead of the evidence through developing and implementing safety guidance in consensus with milk bank leaders around the world. Safety is always the main concern of non-profit milk banks – the safety of donors, transportation teams, our own teams working with the milk and of course the recipient babies and healthcare professionals working with families in hospitals and at home. This statement from the WHO confirms our reading of the available evidence, and we will continue to work together with our expert advisory board and colleagues round the world to monitor new findings as they appear. This will help us to make sure the The Hearts Milk Bank and other milk banks can offer the safest standards every day.
You can read more in the New York Times here and the transcript of the Director General’s statement here.