The study, conducted at Providence Portland Medical Center in the US, aimed to find out whether the breast milk of nursing mothers can develop COVID-19 antibodies once they complete the recommended vaccination course.
The enrolled subjects completed two doses of the vaccine, with a 21- or 28-day interval between the first and second inoculations. The breastfeeding moms did not have a history of getting the COVID-19 infection.
Researchers collected breast milk samples before the first vaccine dose, as well as at 11 additional time points, with the last sample obtained 14 days after the second vaccine dose.
They found that by day seven after the first inoculation, the breast milk samples developed substantial IgG and IgA immunoglobulins against SARS-CoV-2. While the antibody levels declined in the weeks before the second dose was injected, they also rose sharply and remained elevated after the second dose was received.
According to Forbes, it is important to note the distinction between the antibody levels of vaccinated breastfeeding moms vs lactating women who were infected with COVID-19. Those with prior infection had significant IgA antibodies, while the vaccinated women’s breast milk had elevated IgG antibodies.
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What are IgA and IgG antibodies?
Immunoglobulin A or IgA antibodies are commonly seen in respiratory infected mucus membranes and are detected after a person has had respiratory illness. Immunoglobulin G, on the other hand, is a more common antibody found in the blood, which provides systemic immunity and is quickly detected after an intramuscular injection as opposed to respiratory infection.
The pilot study is extremely small, but researchers believe the results are promising. “The research suggests babies may be protected from COVID-19 by acquisition of antibodies through breast milk following their mothers’ vaccinations. We don’t know how long the antibodies will remain in the mothers or the infants. There is more to learn,” says Jason Baird, Ph.D., the research scientist who headed the study.
This is not the first time that breast milk was shown to provide antibodies after a lactating has been vaccinated. Studies show that pregnant and breastfeeding moms who receive the influenza vaccine develop antibodies against flu that they can pass on to their babies through nursing.
Breast milk is already known to adapt to your baby’s needs. Breastfeeding ensures that your infant gets the right antibodies that helps prevent sickness when exposed to bacteria and viruses.
Young children are not yet eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines. Now that vaccinations are underway in the Philippines, this study can be another reason for moms to be convinced to get the vaccine and help protect their families from the disease.