1. Ease your mind with knowledge.
Thus far, COVID-19 has not been detected in breast milk of infected mothers, though data is still limited. Infectious spread is mainly caused by person-to-person contact through respiratory droplets.
The CDC advises that those confirmed or suspected of having a COVID-19 infection and are planning to breastfeed or are currently breastfeeding should CONTINUE to do so. There are very few medical conditions in which breastfeeding is currently considered contraindicated.
Frequent hand-washing, limiting visitor interaction, and adhering to proper pumping hygiene can decrease risks of acquiring or spreading the virus. CDC recommends infected mothers wear a face mask while breastfeeding, if possible.
In an immediate postpartum setting, follow the infection control guidelines found at CDC.gov.
2. If you were planning to wean, consider delaying.
Breast milk is nature’s first medicine and it protects against many illnesses in the short- AND long-term. It contains antibodies, antibacterial and antiviral properties and the perfect nutrition for your baby.
Weaning during a health pandemic isn’t ideal because, 1) your baby needs the extra protection, 2) being in close quarters all day and night isn’t helping your odds of weaning gently, with minimal tears, and with a smooth transition period.
Should you still wish or need to wean, please note the CDC statement that expressed breast milk from a healthy donor is still preferred to formula, in the event your own breast milk is unavailable. Learn more about weaning here.
3. Set up designated nursing stations.
This can help you feel better “organized,” especially when the perimeter of home has become the container of all life. If you arrange breastfeeding corners in special areas, you’re less likely to leave a trail of burp cloths, leaked milk, freshly shed shirts, and nursing pillow candidates all across the house.
What do you need in your nursing corner? A few ideas: bottle of water, snacks, reading material, variety of pillows, receiving blanket, burp cloths, spare diapers, wipes, sanitizer, phone charger.
4. Don’t get into a latch rut.
So you’re roaming the same corridors and rooms, seeing the same things, getting into a predictable routine… make sure this deja vu lifestyle doesn’t inspire a repetitive latch pattern. Switch up your nursing positions instead of getting into the habit of heading to the same chair to nurse baby at the same exact angle, time after time.
Regularly changing baby’s position on your areola ensures proper milk drainage from all the ducts, which helps prevent clogs. The last thing you need right now is a plugged duct that worsens to the point of needing clinical treatment!
Learn about plugged duct remedies here.
5. On that note… remember mastitis is thy ultimate foe.
Well, perhaps not your ultimate foe, but it’s certainly up there in the ranks.
Signs of mastitis (breast infection or also known as “boob flu”) include an angry red rash, tender swollen breasts, severe pain, chills, fever, body aches and other flu-like symptoms.
Mastitis can be treated at home, but needs to be monitored closely as it can snowball into a more dangerous situation requiring medical intervention if ignored.
Learn how to prevent mastitis here.
6. Take care of your mental health.
Get your daily dose of sunshine. Open the curtains every day. Even having a picnic in the backyard will do.
Converse regularly with other breastfeeding parents. Surely social media has its fatal flaws, but in situations like this it can be used wisely for maintaining lines of connection.
Many therapists are offering virtual counseling sessions at affordable rates, which I urge you to try if feeling overwhelmed, restless, or experiencing signs of Postpartum Mood & Associated Disorders like Postpartum Anxiety & Depression. Take this self-evaluation PMAD quiz if you’re not sure.
7. Move your body.
Schedule a block of time to move, stretch, and strengthen your body daily — you can finally dust off all those unused fitness apps!
8. You need breaks.
Take time each day to do something fulfilling that has nothing to do with your baby. Get this situated now: who in your household can care for the baby so you can take a few moments to yourself? Agree on a time when you can “disappear” for a while and not be expected to do chores, answer to anyone, or explain how you’re going to spend this time.
9. Log in to virtual meetings.
Your local La Leche League chapter is likely hosting virtual support meetings. Many IBCLCs offer virtual appointments to help you address breastfeeding difficulties and challenges.
For comprehensive breastfeeding education online, check out the Birth Boot Camp Breastfeeding MRE video featuring renowned IBCLC Mellanie Sheppard.
10. Think ahead.
Make a list of things you and your breasts need to feel more comfortable for a while. Order your vitamins and herbal supplements in bulk. Do you rely on a certain nipple cream? Are you due for a restock on cleaning supplies for your pump parts?
Consider switching to cloth products to sidestep shortages of disposables (breast pads, menstrual items, diapers, etc). Learn everything you need to know about cloth diapering here.
11. Take advantage of your time at home.
Breastfeeding works best when you’re not stressed. We simply have no power over some things, and just as in birth, we must surrender to that which we cannot control. Stay positive, count your blessings, love on your baby.
If you’re in the first month postpartum, hopefully a quarantine doesn’t feel too unrecognizable from your original postpartum plan as you should be lying-in anyway. 😉
12. If working from home, you still get pump breaks.
If you’re a pumping mama, yes it’s still reasonable to take pump breaks during working hours.
Sure, you can multitask while attached to a pump, especially with the built-in privacy of your home. But it would be unreasonable to expect an employee to attend to other types of medical or health concerns while actively working. Expression of milk at timely intervals is a medical need for some people.
Engaging in work that requires concentration or conjures stress can also negatively impact milk output by inhibiting letdown.
Communicate with your employer for assurance that your previous pumping arrangement still stands. Check out pumping and workplace laws here.