When COVID-19 became an international pandemic in early 2020, scientists began working tirelessly to produce safe and effective vaccines in record time. By mid-December, the FDA approved two vaccines for emergency use in the US. A vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech with a 95 percent efficacy rate and another one by Moderna with a similar efficacy rate of 94.1 percent. Although both vaccines have shown to be highly effective in clinical trials, what does it mean pregnant and breastfeeding moms?
We tapped into our Miracle Milkookies ‘mama community’ of breastfeeding moms to ask them what questions they have surrounding pregnancy, breastfeeding, and the COVID vaccine. We leaned on the expertise of international board certified lactation consultant, Ame Odom, to answer our specific questions.
Mama Community: What are your thoughts on getting the COVID vaccine while breastfeeding?
Ame: The COVID vaccine trials specifically withheld women who were both pregnant and lactating from being able to volunteer. We cannot say that either vaccine, without proper evidence, is absolutely safe for those women. But, a lot of groups have recently released positive statements that allow us to feel more comfortable about vaccinating these women. The ACOG has stated that what is known about the vaccine is enough to say that if a woman is 1. at risk of getting the virus, 2. her doctor has determined so and 3. she is being offered the vaccine, it is better to do so than to not. So in a very roundabout way, it’s up to the woman and her doctor, but likely advisable that you vaccinate.
Mama Community: I am not currently, but if I were to be diagnosed with COVID, can I still breastfeed or should I use frozen milk?
Ame: Yes, as with many other viruses, we believe that breastfeeding should not be withheld if the mother is well enough to continue. There are studies underway at this very moment and I expect really good news to come out over the next few months! There are some precautions if you are infected, like wearing a mask whenever you are with baby, this includes nursing, and hand washing before and after breastfeeding. If you pump, you should wash and sanitize your pump equipment after each use.
Mama Community: Do you think the vaccine will allow for antibodies to be passed to nursing baby?
Ame: We are starting to hear early reports about antibodies possibly protecting the baby whose mother has been vaccinated during pregnancy, but we still don’t have any data to say absolutely. There was a report released from UC San Diego that was very promising in this regard. They tested 18 mothers who were infected with severe COVID-19, in over 64 different samples from these mothers, they found ZERO evidence of the virus, this is huge! Furthermore the same group used milk samples from mothers who were not infected and they actually added the virus to the milk, pasteurized the milk and tested it and found again ZERO detectable virus. I believe when more reports are released we will be able to see a very very good possibility of this!
Mama Community: Is there any specific data you hope to see in the coming months to feel better about the COVID vaccine?
Ame: I am very hopeful that in the coming months as many reputable sources are currently underway in studies we will see very positive data in regards to both vaccine related and direct results of COVID19 positive mothers who are nursing.
These are just a few of the common questions we received, what are your thoughts on getting the COVID vaccine while pregnant and or breastfeeding?
Please note: These answers were shared the week of February 1, 2021, if you have any specific questions related to the vaccine and breastfeeding or pregnancy, we recommend you reach out to your healthcare provider for the most up to date and accurate information.