Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a commonly occurring virus that frequently causes cold symptoms. Infants are particularly vulnerable to developing severe disease from RSV.

Breastfeeding is known to be protective against developing respiratory infections and decreasing the severity of respiratory infections in general. In particular, breastfeeding has been shown to protect infants from developing RSV bronchiolitis (1). Exclusive and partial breastfeeding have been shown to reduce the severity of RSV disease, supplemental oxygen requirements, and the length of the hospital stay (2-3). Breastfeeding is a cost effective intervention to reduce the severity of RSV (2).

Historically, RSV testing was not routinely done, particularly in adults. However, recently, RSV testing has become more common and more adults with cold symptoms are being diagnosed with RSV. Typically, by the time testing is done, infants have already had significant exposure to the infected lactating parent. Since breastfeeding is a known protective factor against severe RSV disease, there is no absolute indication to pump and dump with maternal RSV infection and dyads may continue direct feeding with standard precautions for the parent.

For more detailed information and references on specific medications, please refer to LactMede-lactanciaInfant Risk, or Mother to Baby.


  1. Downham MA, Scott R, Sims DG, Webb JK, Gardner PS. Breast-feeding protects against respiratory syncytial virus infections. Br Med J. 1976 Jul 31;2(6030):274-6. DOI:
  2. Mineva G, Philip R. Impact of Breastfeeding on the Incidence and Severity of RSV Bronchiolitis in Infants: Systematic Review. Pediatrics (2022) 149 (1 Meeting Abstracts February 2022): 280. URL: (Accessed Dec 16 2022).
  3. Jang MJ, Kim YJ, Hong S, Na J, Hwang JH, Shin SM, Ahn YM. Positive association of breastfeeding on respiratory syncytial virus infection in hospitalized infants: a multicenter retrospective study. Clin Exp Pediatr. 2020 Apr;63(4):135-140. DOI: