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Study: 'Significant supply' of COVID-19 antibodies in breast milk of vaccinated mothers

University of Florida researchers say nursing infants may be protected from COVID

ST. LOUIS — A new study from the University of Florida found a “significant supply” of COVID-19 antibodies in the breast milk of vaccinated mothers.

Researchers said these antibodies may give nursing infants protection against the coronavirus. Today in St. Louis’ Allie Corey spoke to one mom who has now extended her breastfeeding journey in hopes of protecting her 10-month-old son.

“I can't do anything else for him, you know, all I can do is try to give him my antibodies,” said Kaitlyn Greenburg. “You know, avoid taking him out in public as much as I can, but I work full time, he has to go to daycare so he's at risk.”

Greenburg is a nurse practitioner with Mercy. Her 3-year-old daughter Ryan and 10-month old son Austin are in daycare. The plan was to stop nursing Austin at 1-year-old, but COVID changed that.

“It's definitely pushed me to prolong this longer than I had originally planned,” Greenburg said.

A study from the University of Florida confirms what Greenburg suspected. By nursing her son, she's giving him antibodies that could protect him from COVID-19.

In the study, researchers tested the blood and breast milk of 21 lactating mothers who had never had COVID-19. These mothers were healthcare workers who were recruited via email about interest in participating in the study.

Credit: ksdk

Three samples were taken. One before they received the vaccine, after the first dose and after the second dose. The findings revealed an increase in antibodies after the first dose and a substantial jump after the second dose.

Neonatologist Dr. Josef Neu is a professor of pediatrics at the University of Florida and co-author of the study.

“The increase was really large and that is something that could potentially be utilized by the baby and the mucosal surfaces. Like when the baby drinks the milk it could be protective against disease such as COVID because it's a specific COVID antibody. So, we were excited by that,” explained Dr. Neu.

Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital Pediatrician Dr. Molly Rozier is excited too. She has a 2-year-old girl with one on the way. Any additional data that supports vaccines are safe for expectant moms is helpful when she is speaking with her patients.

“I would encourage all lactating women, as well as pregnant women, whether they plan on breastfeeding or not, to get the vaccine. We see that there are likely some antibodies that do pass through the placenta as well,” Dr. Rozier said.

This study feels like the first bit of good news for nursing moms who are trying to keep their babies healthy in a pandemic.

“I have no problem, you know, extending this longer if that is what is best for him and it's going to keep him protected,” said Greenburg.

While this study is encouraging, Dr. Josef Neu said they have a lot more questions they need to answer. They plan to continue their research to determine how effective the antibodies are and how long they may last.