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VERIFY: Current evidence suggests it may be OK to breastfeed after COVID-19 vaccine

Evidence suggests it may even end up being beneficial for the infant if breastfeeding moms get the COVID-19 vaccine.
Credit: olenachukhil - stock.adobe.com

With both COVID-19 and the vaccines to fight it being so new, there’s still a lot of research being conducted to study effects and get data. There’s some confusion because of that. One common question is about how the vaccines may impact pregnancy and breastfeeding.

THE QUESTION

Can you get vaccinated for COVID-19 if you’re currently breastfeeding or about to start breastfeeding an infant? And can you pass your antibodies to your child?

WHY WE ARE VERIFYING

The vaccines haven’t been approved for children yet and there’s a lot of concern surrounding their impact on infants.

THE ANSWER

You should talk to your doctor if you're eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine and you're breastfeeding or about to start breastfeeding.

Currently, health experts say that you "may" still get vaccinated if you're breastfeeding. And current evidence IS limited but suggests you could even be able to pass your antibodies to your child.

However, data is still very limited at this point and more research is necessary.

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WHAT WE FOUND

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says on its advisory last updated February 4 “there is no need to avoid initiation or discontinue breastfeeding in patients who receive a COVID-19 vaccine” and adds “theoretical concerns regarding the safety of vaccinating lactating individuals do not outweigh the potential benefits of receiving the vaccine.”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says “mRNA vaccines are not thought to be a risk to the breastfeeding infant,” although it adds there is not yet data on the safety in lactating women, the effects of the vaccine on the breastfed infant or on milk production as of yet.

In a December 14 statement, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine said, “While there is little plausible risk for the child, there is a biologically plausible benefit. Antibodies and T-cells stimulated by the vaccine may passively transfer into milk.” However, much like the CDC, the ABM added, “Although the biology is reassuring, for definitive information, we will have to wait for data on outcomes once the vaccine is used in lactating individuals and their children.”

And the World Health Organization is also in agreement with the organizations above. The WHO says, “If a breastfeeding woman is part of a group (e.g. health workers) recommended for vaccination, vaccination can be offered. WHO does not recommend discontinuing breastfeeding after vaccination.”

Dr. Sujatha Reddy, an Obstetrics and Gynecology expert and practicing Gynecologist, said in an interview, “for now, the guidelines are for breastfeeding moms similar as they are to pregnant moms that if you're in a high risk group, the vaccines offered to you... all the information we have, which is limited, shows that it can be safe.”

“There are some small studies that show that the antibodies from people who've recovered from COVID, or received the COVID vaccine are going to the babies,” she said. “And we know antibodies are transmitted mom to baby routinely, that's actually one of the benefits of breastfeeding.”

Dr. Reddy elaborated on that further. “So we know that when a pregnant mom’s immune system makes antibodies, either from having had an infection or from getting a vaccine, that immunity is absolutely transferred in breast milk, especially early on in breast milk,” she said. “It's really rich with antibodies, which is one of the best protections for a newborn, because their immune system isn't so good, which is why that first pediatric appointment at two months babies get a lot of vaccines. Prior to that their immunity really does come from circulating antibodies, either from their mother when they were born and/or from breast milk.”

She, like the other groups above, stressed that research is still in the early phases and data is limited. She also stressed that you should talk to your medical provider to make sure you get the best advice based on your personal health.

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