COVID-19 Tag

New research shows mRNA COVID vaccines offer serious protection to breastfed babies.

Breaking news on breastfeeding and COVID resistance in babies

Though COVID-19 hasn’t taken the same toll on children as on adults, it is taking a toll, according to recent studies. In fact, one in four children who develop COVID have lingering problems, also known as “long COVID,” according to a systematic review of 80,071 children with COVID-19.

What does long COVID look like?

Because COVID-19 is a novel virus, scientists are still figuring out what the long-term results of contracting it might be. However, around 25% of children and adolescents with COVID develop symptoms that can last twelve weeks or longer. Subjects of the study frequently reported neuropsychiatric problems such as moodiness, fatigue, dizziness, and headaches; cardiorespiratory issues like congestion, exercise intolerance, coughing, and arrhythmia; skin-related conditions including excessive sweating, itching, and hair loss; and gastrointestinal problems like constipation, abdominal pain, and nausea.

And that’s a small sampler of the potential ailments that kids with long COVID are reporting. The longer COVID lingers, the more scientists will know about all of the possible complications. However, for now, the study coauthor Sonia Villapol of Houston Methodist Research Institute in Texas says that it’s clear that “children and adolescents have also physical and mental health consequences derived from COVID-19.”

Which vaccines offer breastfeeding babies the greatest protection?

We’ve already discussed the value of getting vaccinated against COVID if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding in a couple of blog posts. Recent studies indicate that some vaccines are better than others at offering protection to newborns. If you want to pass the protective properties of your vaccine to your newborn via breast milk, a March 2022 study for the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recommends opting for the mRNA shots from Moderna or Pfizer.

In the JAMA study, breast milks samples were taken from 124 lactating women over a period of 100 days. The women had received either the mRNA vaccine or the vector-based vaccines developed by Johnson & Johnson or AstraZeneca. Researchers measured the antibodies in milk samples and found more than 9 in 10 women who received the mRNA vaccines had detectable IgA antibodies, which play an important role in protecting breastfed babies from COVID. Of the women who took the vector-based vaccines, fewer than half had IgA antibodies in their milk. The researchers concluded that “an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine is the optimal choice for lactating women when they want to transfer breast milk antibodies to their infants.”

Does my baby get the same protection if the breast milk is pumped?

Yes. While fresh breast milk is the best for babies, breast milk can be safely stored in the refrigerator for up to four days, and it maintains most of its immune properties. Reheating breast milk in the microwave and freezing breast milk both diminish some of the health properties, but not all. Carefully reheated breast milk still offers more immune benefits than formula, even if it’s been in the freezer for up to six months.

You’re still the best protection your baby has.

I take this as good news for worried moms. There is something you can do to protect your baby from COVID and other respiratory illnesses – breastfeed! We’re here to help in whatever way we can, whether that’s providing medical resources to help you make sound decisions or providing support when you’re beginning your breastfeeding journey. Need help finding a breast pump? We’re here for that, too. Give us a call or email today.

How does breast milk protect babies from COVID?

We already knew breast milk was an immune booster

We were telling you the health benefits of breast milk way back in 2019. It contains all the essential nutrients your baby needs to develop. It’s also rich in immune cells and reduces the risk of asthma and allergies, among other childhood and lifelong illnesses. In fact, one study we cited in that earlier post described breast milk as “required for optimal infant growth and development.”

You can’t get much better press than that. Or can you?

The news about breast milk’s health benefits keeps getting better

A University of Birmingham study released in 2021 found that immune cells called regulatory T cells are nearly twice as abundant in breastfed babies as in formula fed babies. In addition, the study found that bacteria that support T cells are more abundant in the guts of breastfed babies. Optimally-functioning T cells are critical today as they play a key role in immunity to foreign substances, includng COVID-19.

T cells known as “killer T cells” can target and destroy virus-infected cells. Scientists hope that they may help provide some immunity to COVID-19, according to a recent Nature article. While T cells can’t prevent infection, they can reduce the severity of it as well as reducing transmission.

But wait – there’s more! Breast milk also passes on COVID-19 vaccine benefits

Early studies of COVID-19 vaccines excluded pregnant and breastfeeding women, which led many moms to wonder if they should risk getting vaccinated. However, new data is in from a study that explored the use of Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in both groups of women. The news is good!

The study showed that vaccine-induced antibody levels were much higher than levels induced by natural infection with COVID-19 during pregnancy. Further, the researchers found that those same antibodies were transferred to babies from mothers via umbilical cord blood and breast milk.

“We now have clear evidence the COVID vaccines can induce immunity that will protect infants,” said researcher Galit Alter in an interview with U.S. News and World Report. “We hope this study will catalyze vaccine developers to recognize the importance of studying pregnant and lactating individuals and include them in trials. The potential for rational vaccine design to drive improved outcomes for mothers and infants is limitless, but developers must realize that pregnancy is a distinct immunological state, where two lives can be saved simultaneously with a powerful vaccine.”

Breast milk for the win – again

Naturally, we’re not surprised. We’ve known breast milk is a little bit scientific wonder and a little bit mother’s magic for a while. We just wanted you to know that the love you pass on to your little one when you’re nursing is a pretty big deal in the fight against COVID-19 and other preventable illnesses.