Parents of nursing infants naturally have some questions about breastfeeding during COVID-19.
While we are still learning more about the effects of COVID-19 on nursing infants, breastfeeding mothers, and breastmilk – there is evidence to suggest that breastfeeding during COVID-19 infection is not only safe but also beneficial in the passing on of antibodies.
Should moms continue breastfeeding while diagnosed with COVID-19?
One of the most common concerns that breastfeeding mothers have is whether or not to continue giving their child breastmilk if they themselves have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Moms who have a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 should be able to continue breastfeeding (or feeding expressed breastmilk) with minimal risk to their baby. Current research suggests that COVID-19 does not pass through breastmilk from mom to baby.
This also means that donated breastmilk should not pose a risk to a breastfed baby, especially if the donor milk has been pasteurized.
It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers with COVID-19 remember to wear a mask whenever they are within six feet of their baby and wash their hands thoroughly when expressing or feeding breastmilk. If necessary, your child’s other parent or another caregiver can give expressed breastmilk to your little one while you are in quarantine or isolation.
Parents who have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19 and are not fully vaccinated should also follow these precautions until the danger period has passed.
Keep a close eye on your child for any signs or symptoms of COVID-19 and consult with a pediatrician if you have any questions or concerns.
Should breastfeeding moms get vaccinated against COVID-19?
Some research suggests that pregnant and recently pregnant moms may be more susceptible to getting sick with COVID-19 than their counterparts. Therefore, it is even more important that breastfeeding moms take the proper precautions to avoid becoming infected with COVID-19.
Most medical professionals recommend that nursing mothers comply with all current vaccine requirements and stay on schedule with their COVID-19 shots and boosters.
According to the CDC, the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are preferred over the J&J/Janssen vaccine for most people, including those who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Does vaccine immunity pass through breastmilk?
Limited data is available on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in breastfeeding mothers, the effects of COVID-19 vaccination on breastfed infants, and the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine on milk production. Nursing mothers were excluded from participation in COVID-19 vaccine trials.
However, it is thought that infants should receive some protection through the vaccination of their nursing mothers, due to research showing the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in the breastmilk of vaccinated individuals.
Does natural immunity pass through breastmilk?
Likewise, nursing mothers may be wondering if their natural antibodies acquired through COVID-19 infection can pass through to their child via their breastmilk.
The good news is that recent studies have found evidence that disease-acquired antibodies show up in breastmilk just like vaccine-acquired antibodies do. This means that mothers who have recently acquired and recovered from COVID-19 should be able to breastfeed their babies without hesitation and even confer this natural immunity on to them.