Mothers turning to breast milk to protect children too young for COVID-19 vaccines

Mothers turning to breast milk to protect children too young for COVID-19 vaccines

 

After Danielle Quinn received her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, she continued to breastfeed her youngest daughter, Elise, in hopes of passing some antibodies to her.

Recently she’s started to sneak some breast milk into the cereal of her older girl, Bria.

“I thought, ‘well, if (breast milk) is good for my one-and-a-half year-old, maybe it’s good for my three-year-old,” Quinn told Global News.

COVID-19 vaccines are not yet approved for children under age 12. The Edmonton mother isn’t the only one hoping to use breast milk to protect children too young to be immunized.

Calgary’s Northern Star Mothers Milk Bank has seen increased interest in milk from COVID-vaccinated women. Some people inquire about giving it to their older kids too.

But how much protection could it actually provide?

A number of studies, including this one, have confirmed the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in breast milk — from both vaccinated mothers and mothers who had the virus

However, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada, it’s still unclear whether drinking antibodies can protect an infant from COVID-19.

Ethically, researchers can’t expose babies to the virus to test that, but several teams have tested the quality of breast milk antibodies — and they seem to be good.

“Definitely (breast) milk has immunosufficient (COVID-19) antibodies that can protect the nursing baby,” said Dr. Shokrollah Elahi.

“It just depends on the volume (of milk) and the frequency (of breastfeeding).”

The University of Alberta immunologist says previous studies show various vaccines can generate antibodies which, when passed in breast milk, can prevent infection in infants.

For example, his team vaccinated pregnant animal models with the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine, then exposed their suckling offspring to the pertussis bacteria. They did not get infected.

Mothers turning to breast milk to protect children too young for COVID-19 vaccines

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