hero image

A study conducted by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and the UF College of Medicine suggests that lactating mothers who receive the COVID-19 booster pass antibodies to their children through breast milk, potentially offering protection to infants who are too young to be vaccinated.

Infants get COCID-19 antibody protection from breast milk

This is the third study in a series examining the transfer of antibody protection through breast milk from mothers who received their initial COVID-19 vaccinations, including the booster shot. Prior research also confirmed this transfer of antibodies via breast milk.

Dr. Vivian Valcarce, formerly of UF College of Medicine and now an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, suggests that breast milk could be crucial in safeguarding infants under six months old from COVID-19, as evidenced by ongoing hospitalizations of infants due to COVID-19 infections.

The study published in Frontiers in Nutrition examined the impact of a mother receiving her first COVID-19 booster shot on breast milk antibody protection. Led by Joseph Larkin, an associate professor at UF/IFAS, the research focused on assessing changes in antibody response and functionality in breast milk. It also investigated the presence of COVID-19 antibodies in breast milk consumed by infants.

According to Larkin, breastfeeding may offer COVID-19 antibodies to infants who are not yet eligible for vaccination. These antibodies diminish over time, but receiving a booster shot could extend protection for breastfed babies.

Infants depend on their mother’s immune system for protection

Newborns depend on their mothers’ immune systems as their own immune systems are immature at birth. Breastfeeding acts as a bridge during this period, aiding in the development of the baby’s immune system. While some antibodies are passed to fetuses through the placenta, this initial protection diminishes over time.

The study involving 14 lactating mothers and their babies tracked the effects of COVID-19 booster shots. Researchers tested the mothers’ blood, breast milk, and babies’ stools to confirm the presence of antibodies. Breast milk containing antibodies was exposed to a lab-safe COVID virus strain, where it successfully disabled the virus.