SARS-CoV-2 and human milk: What is the evidence?

Kimberly A. Lackey, Ryan M. Pace, Janet E. Williams, Lars Bode, Sharon M. Donovan, Kirsi M. Järvinen, Antti E. Seppo, Daniel J. Raiten, Courtney L. Meehan, Mark A. McGuire, Michelle K. McGuire

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has emerged as one of the most compelling and concerning public health challenges of our time. To address the myriad issues generated by this pandemic, an interdisciplinary breadth of research, clinical and public health communities has rapidly engaged to collectively find answers and solutions. One area of active inquiry is understanding the mode(s) of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Although respiratory droplets are a known mechanism of transmission, other mechanisms are likely. Of particular importance to global health is the possibility of vertical transmission from infected mothers to infants through breastfeeding or consumption of human milk. However, there is limited published literature related to vertical transmission of any human coronaviruses (including SARS-CoV-2) via human milk and/or breastfeeding. Results of the literature search reported here (finalized on 17 April 2020) revealed a single study providing some evidence of vertical transmission of human coronavirus 229E; a single study evaluating presence of SARS-CoV in human milk (it was negative); and no published data on MERS-CoV and human milk. We identified 13 studies reporting human milk tested for SARS-CoV-2; one study (a non-peer-reviewed preprint) detected the virus in one milk sample, and another study detected SARS-CoV-2 specific IgG in milk. Importantly, none of the studies on coronaviruses and human milk report validation of their collection and analytical methods for use in human milk. These reports are evaluated here, and their implications related to the possibility of vertical transmission of coronaviruses (in particular, SARS-CoV-2) during breastfeeding are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere13032
JournalMaternal and Child Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • COVID-19
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Coronavirus
  • breastfeeding
  • breast milk
  • human milk
  • infectious disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


Dive into the research topics of 'SARS-CoV-2 and human milk: What is the evidence?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this