During the early months of the pandemic, pregnant mothers were linked with infecting the newborns with the virus that could possibly transmit through the breastmilk. But many studies that came forward proved that there it is not possible that a mother can infect her child while feeding. A new study has added more value to this aspect proving that Covid-19 positive mothers can transmit anti-bodies against the virus to their newborns which may help to build immunity in them.
This research team from the University of Rochester Medical Center (New York) analyzed samples obtained from Covid-19 positive mothers who recently gave birth and found that there is no way that breastmilk can cause coronavirus to reach a baby. They also found no traces of the genetic material of the virus in these breastmilk samples confirming that maternal spread is unlikely.
The Covid-19 anti-bodies that they found inside the breastmilk can neutralize the virus, if it reaches inside the newborn, in any way. For this reason, mothers can breastfeed their newborns, even they are infected and not live separately.
There were many questions regarding breastmilk safety for newborns if their mother has coronavirus in her body during the pandemic. Many of them have resolved but there are still many more that needs an answer. There is only limited research on this topic which is why there is still confusion regarding the safety of newborns. Many health experts are still not convinced that the breastmilk of a Covid-19 positive mother is safe for her newborn, estimating the potential risks.
There are some studies that found no evidence of the virus in the milk, including this current study. But many others found viral RNA inside. If there are antibodies in the body, there are chances that the breastmilk sample will have them too. In that case, feeding the baby means providing protection against the coronavirus which is highly desirable.
The press release issued by the URMC urges doctors, not to separate the newborn from the mother unless there is any other reason or it is absolutely necessary. But finding that breastmilk feed from a Covid-19 positive mother is safe for a newborn, is still challenging because of insufficient data.
This study has now published in the journal mBio.
These results are based on the analysis of 37 breastmilk samples obtained from 18 women who were Covid-19 positive and recently delivered a baby. The research team found no genetic material, viral antigen, or the virus itself inside these samples. However, they were able to find two anti-bodies that are linked with coronavirus, one of which is IgA which is commonly found in all body fluids including blood and breastmilk.
The research team is all set to investigate their findings and find out if it is true for all women, with different risk factors. They are currently enrolling more women who were recently diagnosed with the virus and are currently breastfeeding. They plan to complete this next phase of the study in the next two months. Based on this new phase results, it will be clear if breastmilk has some immunity boost for the newborns, and compare its results with women injected with Covid-19 vaccines.