Coronavirus vaccination drive has gained global momentum as people queue to get their shots. However, pregnant and breastfeeding mums still remain concerned about whether they can or should get vaccinated. That’s because, currently there is limited data on the safety of COVID-19 vaccines for pregnant and lactating mum.
So should you still breastfeed if you have been vaccinated? Will the vaccine affect your baby’s health? Will it pause your breastmilk supply? We answer some of the burning questions on breastfeeding and covid vaccine.
Breastfeeding And COVID Vaccine: What You Need To Know
Image courtesy: Pixabay
As you know, breastfeeding is one of the most effective ways to ensure child health and survival. In fact, World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNICEF recommend that breastfeeding should be initiated within the first hour of birth and children be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of their lives. So there is no doubt that breastmilk is crucial in the growth and survival of a child.
Now coming to the crucial question: Is it safe to breastfeed after getting vaccinated? The answer is: Yes, it is.
Healthcare authorities unanimously agree that it is in fact safe to breastfeed post vaccination.
For instance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) recommends that breastfeeding women can get a COVID-19 vaccine. There is no need to stop breastfeeding if you want to get a vaccine. That’s because when you get vaccinated, the antibodies made by your body can be passed through breastmilk and help protect your child from the virus.
On the other hand, WHO has also issued a clarification on the subject, “As the vaccine is not a live virus vaccine and the mRNA does not enter the nucleus of the cell and is degraded quickly, it is biologically and clinically unlikely there is a risk to the breastfeeding child.”
Plus, as the AZD1222 is a non-replicating vaccine, it is unlikely to pose a risk to the breastfeeding child, say the WHO experts.
Here are a few Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), we hope will help you.
FAQs: Breastfeeding And COVID Vaccine
It is unlikely that vaccination will have any impact on a woman’s ability to make milk. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Q. Should breastfeeding women receive the vaccine?
Ans: If the lactating woman is part of the high-risk group, the vaccine can be given to her. WHO experts highlight that absence of data doesn’t mean that the vaccine is not safe for lactating women or their children.
Q. Should there be research on the vaccination of breastfeeding women?
Ans: WHO experts acknowledged the lack of data for recommending the vaccine to lactating women.
Q: Can COVID-19 vaccination decrease milk supply?
Ans: It is unlikely that vaccination will have any impact on a woman’s ability to make milk. Experts recommend not to stop breastfeeding after vaccination.
Q. Can breastmilk transmit COVID-19?
Ans: The transmission of the COVID-19 virus through breastmilk and breastfeeding has not been detected. So it is safe to say for now that there is no potential truth to this claim.
Q. If a mother is confirmed/suspected to have COVID-19, is infant formula milk safer for infants?
Ans. WHO doesn’t recommend giving infants formula milk, even if the mother has been detected with COVID-19. Purely because, there may be risks associated with giving infant formula milk to newborns and infants.
However, if you are unable to give breastmilk to your baby, there is no need to feel guilty about giving him formula milk. You can consult with your doctor about your supply and the brands of infant formula milk to give to your little one.
Q. What are the precautions to be followed by a nursing mom?
While breastfeeding, a mother should implement appropriate hygiene measures. Like washing her hands frequently and wearing a mask if required to avoid the transmission of droplets. Keep your breasts clean and your baby’s mouth dry and clean as well.
Q. If I am unwell and can’t breastfeed. What options can I explore?
Ans. If you are too unwell to breastfeed or express breastmilk, you should explore the possibility of relactation (restarting breastfeeding after a gap), wet nursing (another woman breastfeeding or caring for your child), or using donor’s breastmilk.
Q. How can employers ensure that workers who are breastfeeding, but have not received the COVID-19 vaccine maintain their jobs?
Ans. WHO mentions that governments and employers must respect and uphold the right of women to breastfeed. Workers who are currently breastfeeding should not be forced to leave employment if not vaccinated. They should be supported to remain employed and incentivised to continue breastfeeding whether they receive the vaccine or not.
So speak with your employer about the policies in your company to ensure a healthy and safe initial months for you and your baby.
Q. Is it necessary for a mother with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 to wash her breast before she breastfeeds?
Ans. Yes, only if a mother is confirmed/suspected to have COVID-19 has just coughed over her exposed breast or chest, then she should gently wash the breast with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds prior to feeding. It is, however, not necessary to wash the breasts prior to every feed.
Q. What should I know about breastfeeding and COVID-19?
Ans. Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact significantly reduce the risk of death in newborns and young infants and provide immediate and lifelong health and development advantages. WHO lists the following crucial information for all new mums.
Newborns and infants are at low risk of COVID-19 infection
Among the few cases of confirmed COVID-19 infection in young children, most have experienced only mild or asymptomatic illness
Active COVID-19 has not been detected in the breastmilk of any mother with confirmed/suspected COVID-19. There is no evidence so far that the virus is transmitted through breastfeeding.
What To Do At Home If You’re Breastfeeding
Nursing moms should eat healthy to boost their immunity. | Image courtesy: Pexels
If you’re a nursing mother, there are a few things you can do at home to keep yourself and your baby healthy and safe.
Boost your immunity: Eat healthy and consume foods like garlic, fenugreek, ripe papaya, and more. All of these are known to increase breastmilk supply.
Get adequate sleep: You need rest, which means getting 6-7 hours of sleep at a stretch daily at night
Exercise: In order to maintain a healthy body and a mind, you need to exercise regularly.
Wear your mask: Whenever you step out of your home, don’t forget your masks as they can help you to stay protected from coronavirus and also protect your baby in the long run.
Maintain social distancing: It is one of the important safety precautions for coronavirus. Avoid venturing out in crowded places and maintain a safe distance from strangers in public.
While these precautions are a must, please be aware that you may experience some side effects after receiving any of the available COVID-19 vaccines, especially after the second dose.
Pregnant women have not reported different side effects from non-pregnant women after vaccination with mRNA vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines). But, some may experience fever, body ache and allergy. Look out for any of these symptoms so that you can take the necessary action.
It is very important to not stress and relax your mind as stress can also reduce the supply of breastmilk. If you have been vaccinated, you should continue breastfeeding your little one.
Getting vaccinated should no longer be a personal choice if you want to get protected. | Image courtesy: Pixabay
Expecting mums are at an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 when compared to non-pregnant women. Severe illness can lead to intensive care admission, mechanical ventilation, or death. Also, pregnant women with COVID-19 might be at increased risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes, such as preterm birth, as compared to pregnant women without COVID-19.
So if you are pregnant or breastfeeding your child, you can choose to get vaccinated. However, if you are still doubting your decision, its best to consult with your doctor and proceed.
Information Source: WHO