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New York Times

Vaccinated mothers are trying to give their baby antibodies via breast milk

As soon as Courtney Lynn Cortez returned from her first COVID-19 vaccine appointment, she pulled out her breast pump. She stopped breastfeeding her daughter about two months ago due to a medication conflict. However, she was not taking those medications, and she recently came across a study suggesting that antibodies from a vaccinated mother could be passed to her baby through milk. Reflowing milk—a process known as relaxation—is not easy. She planned to use the pump every odd hour from 7 am to 11 pm, but Cortez and her husband finally aspired to introduce their 4-month-old daughter to their families and were still vaccinated. Try it with unqualified children. Cortez, who lives in Orange County, California, said last week, nine days after receiving the first dose of Pfizer, “it’s so slow that it’s worth it if you can protect her.” BioNTech vaccine. Sign up for The Morning Newsletter from The New York Times. Relationships are uncommon because it is very physically burdensome. (Often includes medication.) But over the past few weeks, relaxation-focused online forums have been flooded with newly vaccinated mothers like Cortez. Some people stopped breastfeeding their children over a year ago. “For this reason, I’m happy that I’m not the only one trying to relax here!” A woman wrote in a lively thread on her private Facebook group. “Go to the team vaccine!” Another person wrote. In stark contrast, other parenting and breastfeeding forums are boiling with concerns that breastfeeding from newly vaccinated mothers can be dangerous. Vaccine skeptics aren’t the only ones contributing to these fears, researchers say they are unfounded. Some pediatricians and vaccination managers encourage lactating mothers to discard milk after vaccination. So which is it? Is the breast milk of a vaccinated person a kind of elixir that can stop COVID? If so, does the newly vaccinated mother sneak breast milk into the cereals of older children or share excess milk with her friend’s baby? Or do lactating mothers need to postpone vaccination? The answer is that the six researchers agreed that it is correct for newly vaccinated mothers to feel as if they have a new superpower. Studies have shown that antibodies produced after vaccination can actually pass through breast milk. More research will be useful, as well as many things related to the coronavirus. But there is no specific reason for new mothers to postpone vaccination or to give up breast milk, they said. Does “vaccinated breast milk” contain antibodies? Yes, post-study studies show that it contains antibodies. It is not yet clear how accurately these antibodies protect infants from COVID. UNICEF estimates that in the first nine months of the pandemic, about 116 million babies were born worldwide. This caused researchers to struggle to answer important questions. Can the virus be transmitted via breast milk? Some people thought it could be done. However, when several groups of researchers tested milk, they found no evidence of the virus, only antibodies — suggesting that drinking milk can protect the baby from infection. The next big question for breast milk researchers was whether the protective effects of the COVID vaccine could be communicated to babies as well. None of the vaccine trials included pregnant or lactating women, so researchers needed to find a lactating woman who was eligible for the first vaccine deployment. Through the Facebook group, Rebecca Powell, a human milk immunologist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in Manhattan, has found hundreds of doctors and nurses who are willing to share breast milk on a regular basis. Her latest, unofficially published study found that six women received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and four women received the Moderna vaccine 14 days after the woman received the second vaccination. I analyzed the milk. She found a significant number of one particular antibody in all of them called IgG. Other researchers have produced similar results. “There’s a reason to get excited,” said Dr. Katherine Gray, a maternal-fetal medicine expert at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, who conducted a similar study. “I think it can provide some protection.” But how can you be sure? One way to test this, exposing these babies to the virus, is of course unethical. Instead, some researchers sought to answer the question by studying the properties of the antibody. Are they neutralizing? That is, does it prevent the virus from infecting human cells? In a small study draft, an Israeli researcher discovered that they were. “Breast milk has the ability to prevent the spread of the virus and block the ability of the virus to infect host cells and cause disease,” wrote Yariv Wine, an applied immunologist at Tel Aviv University, in an email. However, Dr. Kirsi Jarbinen Seppo, director of pediatric allergy and immunology at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said research was too early for breastfeeding mothers to act as if they couldn’t infect their babies. Said there is. Jarvinen-Seppo is doing a similar study. “There is no direct evidence that COVID antibodies in breast milk protect the baby, only fragments of evidence that suggest that it may be the case,” she said. How long will the protection last? As long as the baby is consuming breast milk containing antibodies. Destiny Burgess twins were born prematurely. Burgess and her husband are back at work in Asheville, North Carolina. One of their older children is in kindergarten. The two are in day care. All of this worries Burgess about a three-month-old baby. She accepted when a vaccinated friend offered to share some of her milk with her twins. “I feel like I have this newly discovered superpower,” said his friend Olivia de Soria. de Soria feeds herself four months old, sneaks a little milk into her three-year-old chocolate milk, and shares it with five other families. “This gives me a little reassurance because they can’t take shots,” Burgess said. But she wonders how much “vaccinated milk” she needs to make a dent. The frustrating answer is that it’s not clear. Researchers agree that babies who breastfeed all day are more likely to be protected than babies who only occasionally fall. But no one ridiculed the idea of ​​giving a little to older children if it wasn’t a hassle. They also agree that the protective effect of breast milk works more like a pill that must be taken daily than a 10-year-lasting shot. This short-term defense, known as “passive protection,” can last only hours or days after the baby’s last “dose,” Powell said. “It’s not the same as a baby being vaccinated,” she added. This means “there is no protection as soon as the milk supply is cut off — a period of time,” said Anti Seppo, another milk researcher at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Seppo also found that it took about two weeks from the first shot for the antibody to appear in the milk, peaking after the second shot. How can I know that “vaccinated breast milk” is safe? Researchers say they know enough about how vaccines generally affect breast milk. Researchers involved in breast milk and COVID vaccine research provided a small variation of the same opinion. Christina Chambers, co-director of the University of California, Better Beginning Center, said: , San Diego. So why is the parenting forum full of anecdotes that pediatricians are telling their mothers to wait for their babies to get vaccinated until they get older, or to throw away their milk after vaccination? Researchers were unable to specifically study the risk, mainly because the lactating mother was not included in the vaccine trial. However, researchers’ confidence that breast milk from COVID-19 vaccinated mothers is safe comes from the widespread knowledge of how the vaccine works. “Unlike pregnancy, where there are theoretical safety concerns, there are really no concerns about breastfeeding or vaccination,” Gray said. Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech products are mRNA vaccines. “The component of the vaccine is an mRNA molecule that has a short lifespan and has no way to get into milk,” Seppo said. So is relaxation really worth all the effort? It may not be, but at first it was decided by an avid mother. In almost two weeks, Cortez was able to pump just a few drops of milk per session. An email exchange with her pediatrician emphasized that even if she shed milk, unmasked, unvaccinated relatives could not be confident that it would be safe to hold her daughter. She praised other women for their greater success in relaxation. But that was all for her. “It feels like the weights have been lifted,” she said, quitting the tight pump schedule. She said all she had to do now was wait for the actual vaccine for her daughter. Pfizer and Moderna have recently begun testing vaccines for 6-month-old babies. This article was originally published in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company