MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – New moms have a lot to think about giving birth during a pandemic, from precautions in the hospital to going home.

A new study at the University of Minnesota Medical School is looking at COVID-19 and breastfeeding.

Doctors are fielding new questions from parents during the pandemic, according to Dr. Erin Osterholm.

“A lot of moms are appropriately very concerned about anything that would separate them from their babies for even a short window of time,” Osterholm said.

Osterholm is a Neonatologist at the University of Minnesota’s Masonic Children’s Hospital. She’s also the NICU’s Medical Director. As an assistant professor with the medical school, she wants to provide science-based answers for parents. She and a colleague are studying if a mom can transmit COVID-19 through breast milk.

“We highly encourage breastfeeding amongst all the moms that we take care of, if they are able, as one of the best sources of nutrition for all babies. The hard part is we know from other research there are viral illness that can be transmitted through breast milk,” Osterholm said.

Moms with babies in the NICU consent to being part of the study. Doctors use samples of breast milk and blood.

“We actually look at those on a weekly basis and then will be reporting out whether or not we see any transmission. We’ll also know which moms were positive at the time of delivery or also collecting history along the way of anyone who gets sick while their baby is in the neonatal intensive care unit,” Osterholm said.

Osterholm says there are no documented cases of transmission through breast milk to date but shares it’s been minimally studied.

“We hope we can get some scientific evidence that keeps it that way, that helps moms feel safer about the process in which they are giving nutrition to their babies,” Osterholm said.

The study is expected to take 3 to 6 months.

Jennifer Mayerle

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