Important update: Healthcare facilities
CDC has updated select ways to operate healthcare systems effectively in response to COVID-19 vaccination. Learn more
UPDATE
Given new evidence on the B.1.617.2 (Delta) variant, CDC has updated the guidance for fully vaccinated people. CDC recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staff, students, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status. Children should return to full-time in-person learning in the fall with layered prevention strategies in place.
UPDATE
The White House announced that vaccines will be required for international travelers coming into the United States, with an effective date of November 8, 2021. For purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines. More information is available here.
UPDATE
Travel requirements to enter the United States are changing, starting November 8, 2021. More information is available here.

Care for Breastfeeding People

Care for Breastfeeding People

Interim Guidance on Breastfeeding and Breast Milk Feeds in the Context of COVID-19

Updated Feb. 25, 2022

CDC is reviewing this page to align with updated guidance.

To maximize protection from variants and prevent possibly spreading the virus to others, wear a mask indoors in public in areas with a high COVID-19 Community Level. People who are pregnant, recently pregnant or have other conditions that could put them at higher risk for severe illness should also speak with their healthcare provider about wearing a mask in public indoor spaces at the medium COVID-19 Community Level.

CDC’s COVID-19 Community Levels recommendations do not apply in healthcare settings, such as hospitals and nursing homes. Instead, healthcare settings should continue to use community transmission rates and continue to follow CDC’s infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare settings.

Summary of Recent Changes


View Previous Updates

Key Points:

CDC recommends that everyone ages 5 years  and older get vaccinated against COVID-19 and stay up to date on their vaccines. More information about COVID-19 vaccines for breastfeeding/lactating persons can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html.

  • People without suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and who have not been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 do not need to take special precautions when feeding at the breast or expressing milk.
  • When either the breastfeeding person or the breastfed child has suspected or confirmed COVID-19, the breastfeeding person should take precautions, including wearing a well-fitting mask, to protect themselves and the breastfed child while breastfeeding, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle.
  • When both the breastfeeding person and the breastfed child have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, no special precautions (e.g., wearing a mask) are recommended for breastfeeding, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle during the period of isolation.

This information is intended for healthcare professionals and lactation specialists who care for breastfeeding people as well as infants and children who receive breast milk feeds (hereafter referred to as the breastfed child or children) during the COVID-19 pandemic. These considerations are based on what is currently known about severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19, and the evidence available to date about transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through breast milk. CDC will update these considerations as additional information becomes available. For related information, refer to Considerations for Inpatient Obstetric Healthcare Settings, Evaluation and Management Considerations for Neonates at Risk for COVID-19, and Information for Pediatric Healthcare Professionals.

Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not a likely source of transmission of SARS-CoV-2.1

Considerations for breastfeeding

Breast milk is the best source of nutrition for most infants, and it provides protection against many illnesses. There are rare exceptions when breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk is not recommended.

People without suspected or confirmed COVID-19 and who have not been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 do not need to take special precautions when feeding at the breast or expressing milk. All breastfeeding people regardless of COVID-19 status who are using breast pumps should be educated about CDC information on how to properly clean and sanitize their breast pump.

How to Protect the Breastfed Child

The following information can be used to counsel breastfeeding persons on precautions to take while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle when the breastfeeding person

  • has suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or
  • has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consider providing additional information on isolation and quarantine when counseling people with specific living situations, such as those living in close quarters or living in shared housing.

Isolation and quarantine

  • The breastfeeding person should follow information on quarantine or isolation.
  • A child being breastfed by someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be considered as a close contact of a person with COVID-19, and should be made to follow appropriate quarantine recommendations for the duration of the breastfeeding person’s  period of isolation and during their own quarantine thereafter.

Precautions while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle

  • Breastfeeding people should follow these precautions during their recommended period of isolation:
    • Wash their hands using soap and water before touching their child or expressing breast milk either by hand expression or with a breast pump. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
    • Wear a well-fitting mask when they are less than 6 feet from the child (including when feeding at the breast or feeding from a bottle) and whenever they are expressing breast milk either by hand expression or with a breast pump. Choose the most protective mask and make sure it fits properly.
    • Clean and sanitize breast pumps and all infant feeding items.
  • Any healthy caregiver, preferably one who is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and not at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, may feed expressed breast milk to the child. If this person is not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and is living in the same house or has been in contact with the breastfeeding person, they should wear a mask while feeding the child in accordance with the appropriate quarantine recommendations.. For more information see Quarantine and Isolation.

Other considerations

  • Some people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 may desire to breastfeed their child, but they may be unable to or choose not to during their COVID-19 illness. One reason may be that they are unable to access appropriate breastfeeding support. Healthcare professionals may continue to refer patients to professional lactation support as needed. Reestablishment of lactation (or relactation) may be possible for some.
  • Breastfeeding people should be counseled to inform their child’s healthcare professional that their child has had close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 prior to any in-person healthcare visits or if the child develops symptoms of COVID-19.

How to Protect the Breastfeeding Person

The following information can be used to counsel breastfeeding people on precautions to take while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle when the breastfed child

  • has suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or
  • has been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consider providing additional information on isolation and quarantine when counseling people with specific living situations, such as those living in close quarters or living in shared housing.

CDC recommends that everyone ages 5 years  and older get vaccinated against COVID-19 and stay up to date on their vaccines. More information about COVID-19 vaccines for breastfeeding/lactating persons can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html.

Isolation and quarantine

  • Follow information on quarantine or isolation for the breastfed child with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
  • People who are breastfeeding a child with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be considered as a close contact of a person with COVID-19. If not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines, the breastfeeding person should quarantine. If the breastfeeding person is up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines they should monitor their symptoms and follow the appropriate quarantine recommendations. For more information see Quarantine and Isolation.

Precautions while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle

  • Because of the danger of suffocation, masks should NOT be put on children younger than 2 years.
  • To minimize possible exposure, breastfeeding people may choose to take precautions as recommended above for those with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle. This includes wearing a well-fitting mask during any close contact (i.e., less than 6 feet) with the child and cleaning their hands frequently (i.e., before and after touching their child).
  • Because recently pregnant people (for at least 42 days following end of pregnancy) who are not up to date on their COVID vaccinations are at increased risk for severe COVID-19 illness, healthcare professionals may counsel the breastfeeding person on risks and benefits of continuing to feed at the breast during the child’s COVID-19 illness.

How to Protect Others when both the Breastfeeding Person and Child have been exposed or test positive

The following information can be used to counsel breastfeeding people on precautions to take while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle when both the breastfeeding person and breastfed child have suspected or confirmed COVID-19 or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, consider providing additional information on isolation and quarantine when counseling people with specific living situations, such as those living in close quarters or living in shared housing.

Isolation and quarantine

  • Both the breastfeeding person and breastfed child should follow information on isolation.

Precautions while feeding at the breast, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle

No special precautions (e.g., wearing a mask) are recommended for breastfeeding, expressing milk, or feeding from a bottle during the period of isolation when both members of the breastfeeding pair have suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Considerations for lactation services

Lack of access to professional lactation support (e.g., lactation consultants, pediatric or obstetric healthcare professionals) is a barrier to breastfeeding. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical to ensure that people who are breastfeeding or who desire to breastfeed continue to have access to this support. Breastfeeding problems are often urgent and require immediate assistance. Further, breastfeeding consults typically require very close contact between the lactation specialist and the lactating caregiver-child dyad; therefore, the use of appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) is essential.

As healthcare providers, all lactation specialists should be up to date on COVID-19 vaccines. During the COVID-19 pandemic, lactation specialists who are not up to date on COVID-19 vaccines should use alternative approaches, such as telemedicine), to provide lactation support services whenever possible, particularly when providing support to breastfeeding pairs with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

In-person support may be necessary to assist some breastfeeding people effectively. Further, not all families may have access to telemedicine. Lactation support is delivered in a variety of settings including outpatient clinics or offices or in the breastfeeding person’s home. The following considerations address infection prevention and control measures including the use of PPE in outpatient and home settings.

In-person lactation visits in the healthcare setting (e.g., hospital, clinic, doctor’s office)

Lactation specialists working in healthcare settings should follow recommended infection prevention and control measures for those settings.

In-person lactation visits in a breastfeeding person’s home

Lactation specialists conducting home visits, breastfeeding people receiving in-home lactation services (hereafter, clients), and any other household members should consider getting COVID-19 vaccines and screen themselves for COVID-19 as instructed below before entering the home as well as take necessary infection prevention and control measures detailed below.

  • Lactation specialists should stay home if they are sick with COVID-19, think they might have COVID-19, or have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 while not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines. Refer all clients to another lactation specialist until the criteria for healthcare workers returning to work after SARS-CoV-2 infection have been met.
  • Screen clients by telephone for COVID-19 symptoms and recent exposure to people diagnosed with COVID-19 and to determine their vaccination status prior to conducting home visit. Keep in mind that screening for symptoms will not identify people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic with COVID-19. If any person in the household has suspected or confirmed COVID-19, it is recommended that lactation services be provided via telemedicine for the recommended period of isolation plus any additional recommended quarantine period for other household members.
    • If the client or any other household member has COVID-19 and in-home support is deemed necessary and critical, use all recommended personal protective equipment as described in Infection Control Guidance for Healthcare Professionals about Coronavirus (COVID-19) for caring for a patient with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.
    • If neither the client nor any of the household members is known to have suspected or confirmed COVID-19, wear a mask that fits well while inside the client’s home. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when entering and leaving the home and when adjusting or putting on or taking off masks. Discard disposable masks between clients. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Masks with layers offer more protection for the wearer against exposure to splashes and sprays of infectious material from others. Additionally, in communities with moderate to substantial community transmission, consider wearing eye protection in addition to a mask to ensure that the eyes, nose, and mouth are all protected from exposure to respiratory secretions while providing breastfeeding support.
  • For all home visits where any household members are not up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, or the household’s COVID-19 vaccination status is unknown:
    • Require the client as well as any other household members ages 2 years and older to wear a maskBecause of the danger of suffocation, do NOT put masks on babies or children younger than 2 years. Masks should also not be worn by anyone who has trouble breathing, is unconscious, cannot move, or is otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance.
    • When not providing hands-on support or close observation, stay at least 6 feet away from the client and others in the home. Masks should be worn at all times and are even more important when less than 6 feet apart.
    • Wear disposable gloves when touching the client or the child. Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds when entering and leaving the home, when adjusting or putting on or off masks, and before putting on and after taking off disposable gloves. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Learn more about proper handwashing. Safely dispose of gloves after use.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces and equipment such as infant scales.

Breastfeeding and expressing milk in workplaces

When counseling breastfeeding people on precautions to take prior to breastfeeding or expressing milk in workplaces, healthcare professionals should discuss a person’s individual circumstances (e.g., level of exposure to people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19, availability and proper use of personal protective equipment). All people breastfeeding or expressing milk in workplaces should be counseled to clean their hands, as instructed above, before touching any pump or bottle parts. They should also follow CDC information on how to properly clean and sanitize breast pumps. If possible, a single-user pump should be used.

Employers should provide breastfeeding employees with a private, non-bathroom space for milk expression. Information is available on providing lactation break time and space in all industries. If a workplace has a multi-user lactation room, efforts should be made to implement engineering and administrative controls to enable physical distancing (e.g., spacing lactation stations at least 6 feet apart, installing physical shields between lactation stations, staggering lactation schedules, and/or encouraging telework). Based on current research, the risk of getting infected with SARS-CoV-2 from contaminated surfaces is low. However, both cleaning (use of soap or detergent) and disinfection (use of a product or process designed to inactivate SARS-CoV-2) of milk collection devices (e.g., bottles, milk bag, breast pump) can reduce the risk of transmission from contaminated surfaces and is generally recommended to prevent bacteria from contaminating the breast milk. Breastfeeding people may consider additional steps such as these to minimize potential routes of exposure. Additional information on disinfecting facilities, such as workplace lactation rooms, is available.

Pasteurized donor human milk

When breast milk is not available from the breastfeeding parent, some may consider using donor human milk. Pasteurized donor human milk is important in the care of preterm infants when a lactating caregiver’s milk is not available. Current evidence suggests that breast milk is not a likely source of SARS-CoV-2 infection.1 Also, there are data suggesting that pasteurization inactivates SARS-CoV-2 in donor human milk. Disruptions in human milk donations may be seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. If hospitals have difficulty acquiring donor human milk, available supplies should be prioritized for preterm infants who will benefit most from human milk feeds.

Considerations for well-child visits

Healthcare professionals are encouraged to prioritize newborn care and recommend infant and childhood vaccinations. Every effort should be made to conduct newborn follow-up visits in person. During in-person visits, healthcare professionals should evaluate feeding and weight gain (particularly given potential breastfeeding disruptions due to COVID-19 illness), assess for dehydration and jaundice, assess caregiver stressors and coping, and provide appropriate supports.

Prior to any in-person healthcare visits, parents and caregivers should be counseled to inform their child’s healthcare provider if either they or their child has had close contact with a person suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 or develops symptoms of COVID-19. The same approach should be taken with respect to a child who has any close contact with another person who has suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Information is available for pediatric healthcare professionals as well as on the delivery of non-COVID-19 clinical care and infection prevention and control in healthcare settings.

Previous Updates

As of June 17, 2021

  • Updated considerations for breastfeeding and lactation services to incorporate vaccination status.

As of December, 2020

  • Updated recommendations on length of quarantine
  • Updated title of page from “Care for Breastfeeding Women” to “Care for Breastfeeding People”

As of October, 2020

  • Update title and language to be inclusive of all persons breastfeeding, chestfeeding, and feeding human milk.
  • Reflect new evidence suggesting that breast milk is not a likely source of SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
  • Reflect new evidence that SARS-CoV-2 experimentally added to breast milk is inactivated via pasteurization.
  • Add considerations for infection prevention and control measures for lactation services.
References
  1. Walker KF, O’Donoghue K, Grace N, Dorling J, Comeau JL, Li W, Thornton Maternal transmission of SARS-COV-2 to the neonate, and possible routes for such transmission: a systematic review and critical analysis. BJOG 2020; https://doi.org/10.1111/1471-0528.16362.
  2. Conzelmann C, Rüdiger G, Meister TL, et al. Pasteurization Inactivates SARS-CoV-2–Spiked Breast Milk. Pediatrics 2021;  https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2020-031690.