Firstly, thank you so much! Demand for donor milk has been increasing all year, and we are working hard to make sure supplies to neonatal intensive care units are preserved no matter what.
Secondly, there is at the moment no evidence that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is transmitted through human milk. Only six cases have been reported though, so this is very early data. It is very likely that the breast immunity will work to produce antibodies and kill as many viral particles as possible before it gets into the milk. It is really important mothers keep breastfeeding to help support their baby’s immune system, and this has been advised by UNICEF, the Center for Disease Control in the US and the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. For babies in hospital whose mothers are unable to provide enough of their own milk, it may be even more important that they have access to donor milk.
To protect the recipients of donor human milk from any potential harms, we work according to the NICE Clinical Guideline on the Operation of a Human Milk Bank. The precautions we have in place at present have been felt to be enough to cover Covid-19, but have also been taking regular advice from a team of experts in virology and microbiology.
After speaking with them last night and again this evening after the statement from the Prime Minister, CMO and CSO, we ask all milk donors, either actively donating or thinking about helping other babies, to take the following precautions. The Government has published guidance that can be read here, which this guidance is based upon:
If you have had a high temperature and a new, continuous cough, please do not express milk for donation for 8 days after the onset of symptoms.
If improvement in your symptoms has occurred and you have not been feverish for 2 days, or if a cough is the only persistent symptom on Day 8 after your symptoms began, you can return to pumping milk for donation (post-viral cough is known to persist for several weeks in some cases).
We also are taking precautions to protect our team, not only those in the lab and the team who receive your donated milk, but also the SERV volunteer riders and drivers. We always ask you to put containers of expressed milk directly into the strong plastic bags that we provide, and then into the transport box (so the rider doesn’t need to touch the bag). If the milk is too heavy for one bag, please split the batch into two bags – we will be sending out more bags to cover this.
And thank you. You are making a huge difference.