On this page you can find information relating to:
- Protecting yourself from COVID-19
- Breastfeeding your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Formula feeding your baby during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Where to go for further information
Protecting yourself from COVID-19?
Practising good hand and cough hygiene and avoiding people who have recently been overseas, if you can, are the best ways to avoid infection of COVID-19. It’s also important that everyone in your household and immediate family does the same. If you have other children, teach them about the importance of good hygiene and how and when to wash their hands.
- wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use alcohol-based hand sanitiser (e.g. before and after eating, and after going to the toilet)
- cover your coughs and sneezes with tissues and dispose of them straight away; wash your hands afterwards
- cough or sneeze into your (flexed) elbow
- cough away from other people
- stay more than 1.5 metres away from people when out in public, if possible
If you are currently working, you can ask your employer what they are doing to protect their staff. Many businesses are providing guidelines for how employees should behave in the workplace; for example, by encouraging good hygiene, limiting meetings and giving staff the option to work from home.
You should also practise ‘social distancing’, which includes:
- avoiding crowds and mass gatherings where it is hard to keep a reasonable distance from others (about 1.5m)
- avoiding small gatherings in enclosed spaces
- trying to keep 1.5m between you and other people where possible (for example, when out in public)
- avoiding shaking hands, hugging or kissing
- avoiding visiting vulnerable people, such as those in aged-care facilities or hospitals, babies or people with weakened immune systems
Breastfeeding during the COVID-19 pandemic
Taking advice from the World Health Organization and other breastfeeding authorities, the BFHI Australia continues to advise mothers to establish and maintain breastfeeding, and to promote skin-to-skin contact at birth.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways for parents to protect their baby from a variety of illnesses, and evidence shows that mothers will still be able to breastfeed even if they have suspected or confirmed coronavirus. There is no evidence showing that the virus can be carried in breastmilk, the well-recognised benefits of breastfeeding outweigh any potential risks of transmission of coronavirus through breastmilk.
Even when mothers are well, they should always practise good hand and cough hygiene when breastfeeding their baby. If a mother chooses to breastfeed her baby, the following precautions are recommended:
- Wash hands before touching baby, breast pump or bottles
- Try to avoid coughing or sneezing on baby while feeding at the breast
- Consider wearing a face mask while breastfeeding, if available
- Follow recommendations for pump cleaning after each use
The main risk of breastfeeding is close contact between mother and baby, as they may share infective airborne droplets, leading to infection of the baby after birth. A discussion about the risks and benefits of breastfeeding should take place between mothers, their family and their maternity team.
If a mother does contract COVID-19 whilst they are still breastfeeding, there are a number of things they can do to prevent passing it on to their baby.
- Wear a face (surgical) mask whilst in close contact with the baby
- Practise good hand and cough hygiene
- Consider expressing breastmilk and have someone who is not infected feed the baby
- If mothers decide to express, follow the same recommendations for hand hygiene
Your doctor, midwife or child health nurse will be able to advise you of the best way to breastfeed your baby. If you need additional support with breastfeeding, call the Australian Breastfeeding Association Helpline on 1800 686 268.
Formula feeding during the COVID-19 pandemic
Parents who choose to feed their baby with formula or expressed milk should be encouraged to continue adhering to current guidance on washing and sterilizing equipment. Parents should be supported to bottle feed responsively, including pacing feeds and limiting the number of people who feed their baby. If mothers are expressing breast milk in hospital, a dedicated breast pump should be used.
If the infant formula that a parent usually uses for their baby is not available to purchase due to supply issues, then it’s okay to use another formula. Parents should be advised that stage 1 / first infant formula should be used for infants in the first year of life:
- If you are unable to get your usual brand of first infant formula, don’t worry – you can use any first infant formula as all preparations have a similar nutritional composition to comply with legislation.
- Don’t use stage 2 follow on formula for any baby under 6 months – only use first infant formula.
- If you are using follow on formula for a baby older than 6 months and cannot access this, then use first infant formula.
- If you are using other milks such as anti-reflux milk, comfort milk, etc. and can’t access these, then use first infant formula.
- Always make up infant formula as per manufacturers guidance – do not be tempted to add more water to make it last longer as diluting the milk could endanger your baby’s health.
- Be aware alternative brands may have different size scoops in the tin and use different amounts of water.
Further information for parents on bottle feeding can be found here.
Please note that this guidance may change as knowledge surrounding COVID-19 evolves.
Where to get more information:
- Learn more about coronavirus (COVID-19) on healthdirect, including information on symptoms, avoiding infection, self-isolation, travel and high-risk groups.
- Visit the Australian Government Department of Health for more information on coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources in other languages.
- If you have symptoms, use the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Symptom Checker to find out what to do next.
- If you have a general question about pregnancy, call Pregnancy, Birth and Baby on 1800 882 436 to speak with a maternal child health nurse.
- If you have a question about coronavirus (COVID-19), you can call the National Coronavirus Helpline on 1800 020 080.
Sources: World Health Organization, Unicef UK, Pregnancy Birth and Baby , Australian Breastfeeding Association, Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (UK) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (US).