According to a brand new study by the University of Rochester Medical Center and New York University scientists, vaccinated new mothers’ breast milk contains antibodies!
In fact, both lactating mothers previously infected with COVID as well as those vaccinated produced breast milk with SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. But does that mean breastfeeding moms can protect their babies from COVID simply by breastfeeding them?
More precisely, the study involved 30 vaccinated moms and 47 ones that had recovered from COVID and was able to find that they produced high levels of Immunoglobulin A (IgA) antibodies in their breast milk (in the case of natural immunity) and robust Immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies (in the case of vaccination acquired immunity.)
While different, the scientists found that both types of antibodies were able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2.
This discovery has made history since it’s the first time that it was proven there can be active antibodies in immune mothers’ breast milk.
Assistant professor in the Division of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at URMC, and one of the study’s authors, Bridget Young, Ph.D., explained that: “It’s one thing to just measure antibody concentrations, but it is another to say antibodies are functional and can neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus. One of the most exciting findings in this work is that breast milk from both moms with COVID-19 infection and milk from mothers receiving mRNA vaccination contained active antibodies that are able to neutralize the virus.”
The study also represents the longest time that natural antibodies were examined which led to the scientists learning how much they last.
It turns out that natural immunity lasts for three months following one’s infection with COVID.
As for vaccinated mothers, the scientists saw a mild decline in antibodies during that same time frame.
Chief of Pediatric Allergy and Immunology at URMC and another co-author of the study, Kirsi Jarvinen-Seppo, Ph.D., M.D., stated that: “The trend in breast milk antibodies aligns with what we see in vaccination sera, after a few months, the antibodies trend downward, but the levels are still significantly above what they were pre-vaccine.”
“While the antibody response exists, it is not yet shown whether these breast milk antibodies can provide protection against COVID-19 for nursing children,” scientists noted.
Jarvinen-Seppo also made sure to stress that “The study does not imply that children would be protected from illness and breast milk antibodies may not be a substitute for vaccination for infants and children, once approved.”