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As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, we are fortunate to now have three vaccines approved in the United States to fight this virus. With emerging treatments and technologies, breastfeeding parents may then wonder if getting the vaccine is something they can safely do.

Unfortunately, breastfeeding individuals were not included in the studies for the vaccines that are currently available. Despite this, the FDA has not restricted the use of this vaccine if someone is lactating.

Why then are breastfeeding people able to receive a vaccine that hasn’t been studied in them? The main reason is that, based on what we do know about these vaccines, it appears highly unlikely that any vaccine could be transferred to the nursing infant. This means the chance for harm is exceptionally low, while the benefit to both the vaccinated individual and possibly their child is extremely high. And in times of a pandemic, it is all about balancing possible risks and known benefits.

Leading organizations that care for pregnant and breastfeeding people, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, all support that breastfeeding people be given the choice to receive the vaccine if they want it after discussion with their healthcare providers.

The components of both authorized vaccines are very simple when compared to other vaccines that we currently have available and have decades of data on and that we do know are compatible with lactation. The chance that any lipid or nanoparticles would make it all the way from the mother’s muscle to her breastmilk is so small, and even if it did, these substances would likely be quickly digested by the nursing infant and cause no ill effect.

Some breastfeeding people wonder if getting the COVID vaccine will mean they can pass some antibodies onto their nursing babies via their breastmilk. There is likely a small amount of antibody transfer, but it is nowhere near the amount that we see transferred across the placenta from vaccines given in pregnancy or when we vaccinate someone directly. However, any amount of antibody transfer is likely an added benefit! A recent small study confirmed this, and while it only included six lactating mothers, it is encouraging early evidence of transfer of antibodies from mom to baby.

If you do choose to receive the vaccine, there is no need to pump and dump for a prescribed time or wean from nursing, despite what some people may have heard from less reputable sources.

We continue to collect data on those people who were breastfeeding and chose to receive the vaccine, and more data will be coming soon. Stay tuned for more, and as always, talk with your healthcare provider if you are breastfeeding and wondering if this vaccine may be right for you.

Takeaways

  • Breastfeeding people were not included in the studies for the vaccines that are currently available.
  • However, they are able to receive this vaccine if they choose.
  • It is highly unlikely that any vaccine particles are transferred in a breast milk.
  • Early small studies show evidence of antibodies passing through milk, which can possibly benefit nursing babies.

Last reviewed by Jennifer Lincoln, MD. Review Date: March 2021

References

  1. Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. Considerations for COVID-19 vaccination in lactation. Dec 14 2020.
  2. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccination Considerations for People who are Pregnant or Breastfeeding. Jan 7 2021.
  3.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Vaccinating Pregnant and Lactating Patients Against COVID-19. December 2020.
  4.  The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Statement: SARS-CoV-2 vaccination in pregnancy. Dec 1 2020.
  5. https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2021.02.23.21252328v1

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