A friend of mine re-latched her two-year-old soon after getting her COVID-19 vaccine back in May, hoping to give the child antibodies via breast milk. Her child was previously weaned at 18 months old.
My friend is not alone. It is reported that vaccinated mothers have been turning to breast milk to protect children too young for COVID-19 vaccines: Many extended breastfeeding, some give breast milk to their breastfed babies’ older siblings in a cup or with cereal, and some even share their breast milk with family or friends’ children. Mothers Milk Bank in Canada has seen increased interest in milk from COVID-vaccinated women. Because COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved for children under age 12, many parents hope breast milk can protect their young children.
When it comes to COVID vaccines and breastfeeding, multiple researches show that the vaccines do not pass through breast milk, but antibodies do, providing hope that breastfed babies might have some level of protection.
Scientists at University of California, San Francisco looked at the vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, and have not detected the vaccines in breast milk. What they have found are antibodies, produced by mothers in response to inoculations, to the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
Now, the researchers want to know how much protection the antibodies can provide babies. While the answer to this question remains uncertain, we already know that the vaccine is the best way to protect a breastfeeding mom, her children and her family. Breastfeeding people were not included in any of the trials for COVID-19 vaccines, but scientists at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA found that the lactating individuals generated the same robust antibody response as did those who were not lactating. In other words: the vaccine is just as beneficial for breastfeeding moms.
We also know that COVID-19 vaccine would NOT harm a nursing infant. As Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo, an immunologist at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, explained to Nature, COVID-19 vaccines are extremely unlikely to cross into breast milk.
To that end, the World Health Organization recommends that breastfeeding mothers be vaccinated, and continue to breastfeed after vaccination.