Feeding your baby safely when you have COVID-19

For support with breastfeeding and parenting, phone the Child Health and Parenting Service Parenting help line on 1300 808 178

This information is for anyone who has or may have COVID-19 who is responsible for feeding a baby.

If you have or may have COVID-19, there are simple but important steps you can take to reduce the risk of infecting your baby.

  • Always cover coughs and sneezes. Make sure you have tissues handy and sneeze or cough into a tissue then wash your hands or use hand sanitiser. Don’t cough into the inside of your elbow, this is where you may hold your baby.
  • Wear a facemask if you can while holding your baby, including while breastfeeding. Talk and have eye contact with your baby during this time, as they get used to you wearing a facemask.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching your baby.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces around you regularly.
  • Have your baby sleep in a cot 1.5 metres (two large steps) away from you.
  • If your symptoms make you feel very unwell, consider if someone who is well can help care for your baby.

Reducing risk for people helping to care for your baby

If you have or are suspected to have COVID-19, its helpful to identify someone who can help care for your baby if needed. It's best if this is someone who is not at risk of severe illness (ie not a person aged over 70 years or who has serious underlying health conditions like diabetes, heart or lung disease, uncontrolled high blood pressure).

To help protect people helping you:

  • wash and dry your hands well and often, or use hand sanitiser, especially after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose or going to the toilet
  • cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze (avoid using the inside of your elbow as this is where you may hold your baby)
  • try to keep at least 1.5 metres (two large steps) from your helper; if this isn’t possible, wear a facemask to protect them.

Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is the safest way to feed a baby during any emergency. If you have COVID-19 and give birth, current medical advice is to establish and maintain breastfeeding while taking the simple steps outlined above, to protect your baby from infection.

The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been found in breastmilk.

If breastfeeding is already established, keep going. There is no reason to stop breastfeeding. This is important for your health and the health of your baby.

Expressing breastmilk

  • If you express breastmilk, it is important to wash your hands well with soap and running water (and rub the soap all over your hands) and dry your hands before expressing and handling equipment.
  • Always sterilise the equipment you use to express.
  • Remove your upper clothing, then wash your hands and breasts with warm soap and water. Dry your hands and your breasts with a clean towel.
  • Once you have finished expressing, cap the bottle containing the breastmilk and wipe the container carefully with hot soapy water, rinse and store according to guidelines until needed.

Seek the advice and support you need to breastfeed. The Breastfeeding Helpline is available 24 hours a day, phone 1800 686 268.

Formula feeding

If you are feeding your baby with formula, try to keep at least two weeks’ supply of formula.

Follow carefully the standard food safety advice for preparing formula and sterilising feeding equipment.

Sourcing formula

You do not need to use the same infant formula all the time unless your doctor recommends a specific formula. If your supermarket runs low on stock, you may need to switch brands. What’s most important is that you use the formula that is recommended for your baby’s age.

  • If your baby is under 12 months of age: All infant formulas for babies from birth to six months (Stage 1) are suitable for babies under one year of age.
  • If your baby is 6 to 12 months: Stage 2 formulas are suitable but its ok for your baby to keep having Stage 1 formula.
  • If your baby is over one year of age: it is safe to transition to full-cream cow’s milk or a suitable alternative.