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Benefits of COVID-19 vaccine for babies who are breastfed

Vaxxed is best: The power of the COVID-19 vaccine and breast milk

I love working with new moms. Every mom just wants to do what’s best for their babies. As a mom of a 1 and 4 year old, I know sometimes figuring out what is “best” for your baby and your family isn’t always straightforward. One subject that comes up often is breastfeeding.

First off, I understand some moms are unable or don’t want to breastfeed, and I always support moms in doing what they feel is best for themselves and their baby. 

For those moms who do either breastfeed, or pump and use a bottle, breast milk provides many benefits to the baby. Children’s Wisconsin has an incredible team of lactation consultants who have written blog posts on the benefits of breast milk, including preventing diarrhea and constipation, lower rates of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, certain types of meningitis, and fewer ear infections. Breast milk has probiotic factors, too, which helps to both support the immune system and serve as a nutrient source for healthy bacteria in the body. This helps in decreasing the risk of allergies, asthma, obesity and other chronic diseases. Research also shows that children who nurse for more than six months are less likely to develop childhood leukemia and lymphoma. 

Protecting our most vulnerable

Countless studies show breast milk protects infants against numerous infections, from the flu to whooping cough. And now there is evidence of a new benefit of breast milk. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, moms who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 pass antibodies onto their babies through the breast milk. That means the protection moms receive after getting the COVID-19 vaccine will pass through their breast milk to their baby. These antibodies may help protect babies who are still too young for the vaccine. In addition, breastfed infants are generally less likely to have severe respiratory symptoms when they get sick.
While I know many people still have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, all data shows that it is safe and effective. Our babies need us to protect them, and the COVID-19 vaccine does just that. I hear from some parents concerned that the vaccine can actually cause COVID-19, but it’s important to remember the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are mRNA vaccines, which means they do not contain a live virus and cannot cause a COVID-19 infection.
Over the last two years, we have seen the devastating effects of COVID-19 globally. While thankfully kids tend to have milder symptoms, not all do. With babies, their immune systems are not fully developed. They are too young to get the COVID-19 vaccine and cannot protect themselves. Breast milk, with the antibodies it passes on from a vaccinated mom, is a helpful tool to prevent or lessen the effects of COVID-19 on a baby. 
As a nursing mom myself, I’m aware that what goes into my body doesn’t just affect me, but also my baby. When I first got vaccinated, I was nervous because we had limited information about how this would affect babies. But as an essential worker in a high-risk job, I knew it was necessary to protect myself, my family and my patients. As the data has continued to come out, we know is it not only safe for pregnant and nursing moms, but even protective! So, while my little guy is both too little to get vaccinated or wear a mask, this was something I could do for him.

Safe and effective 

The leaders at Children’s Wisconsin have worked tirelessly to understand and communicate the data that has come out over the last year about the COVID-19 vaccine. We know it is safe and our best tool in the fight against this pandemic. You can read and watch a video answering questions about the safety and efficacy of this life-saving vaccine. 

If you are pregnant and unvaccinated, the COVID-19 vaccine has been determined safe for pregnant moms and their babies. Erika Peterson, MD, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist with the Children’s Wisconsin Fetal Concerns Center, further explains risks of COVID-19 in pregnant women and the safety of the vaccine in this blog post. If you are unable to breast feed or simply don’t want to, you can still help protect your baby by getting the COVID-19 vaccine yourself and wearing a mask while out in public. 

I know parents have so many questions when it comes to their newborns. Your child’s pediatrician is a great place to start when you have questions concerning vaccines or anything else related to your baby’s safety and well-being.