FAQ on COVID-19: Breast milk, vaccines and antibodies
Medela has gathered the most up-to-date recommendations from the leading global health authorities to assist healthcare professionals and mothers through uncertain times. Here you will find answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19, vaccines and antibodies.
Are COVID-19 antibodies passed via breast milk?
Research has shown that there are benefits of providing breast milk during the COVID-19 pandemic. Researchers have found that antibodies against COVID-19 are present in the milk of mothers who have previously had COVID-19 or who have received a COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be effective in breastfeeding mothers and pass on antibodies in the breast milk to the baby. Therefore, the WHO SAGE recommend that mothers who are vaccinated continue breastfeeding.
Should a mother pump and dump her milk after having the COVID-19 vaccine?
No, breastfeeding can be continued as normal directly after having the COVID-19 vaccination according to the WHO SAGE and CDC. There is no need for the mother to “pump and dump” her milk after having the vaccination.
Are vaccines safe while breastfeeding?
The WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) interim recommendations state that if a breastfeeding mother is part of a high-risk group e.g. she’s a health worker or in a group recommended to have a vaccination, a vaccine can be offered.
Whilst research on COVID-19 vaccines did not include women who were breastfeeding, the absence of direct data does not mean the vaccines are not safe.
According to the CDC neither inactivated nor live-virus vaccines, like the AstraZeneca and Janssen vaccines, pose a risk for mothers who are breastfeeding or for their infants. (Except for smallpox and yellow fever vaccines – these are not given to lactating mothers).
The Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna vaccines do not contain a live virus. The mRNA in these vaccines does not enter the core of the cell, and is degraded quickly. According to the CDC, the COVID-19 vaccines are thought not to be a risk to a child breastfeeding or receiving breast milk.
The vaccines are considered to be effective in breastfeeding mothers and even pass on protection to the baby through breast milk.
Therefore, the WHO SAGE guidance recommends that mothers who are vaccinated continue breastfeeding.
How long do antibodies stay in breast milk?
There are as yet no studies which confirm exactly how long the antibody protection lasts in infants whose mother had COVID-19 and continues to breastfeed. It has been found that the antibodies in mothers who had COVID-19 seem to remain present in breast milk for at least around 10 months post-infection.
A study looking at breastfeeding mothers who had received the COVID-19 vaccine suggests that they may pass protective antibodies to their babies through breast milk for at least 80 days following vaccination.
For safe storage of expressed breast milk at home please see our guidelines.
Breast Milk - a Source of SARS-CoV-2 Antibodies (08.10.2020)
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