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UCSD study looks at impact vaccines have on breastfeeding mothers and their babies

New research at UC San Diego takes a look at breastfeeding mothers who get the COVID-19 vaccine. Doctors say there's no data on the topic.

SAN DIEGO — Looking to human milk for new answers as it pertains to the COVID-19 vaccine, Dr. Lars Bode, UC San Diego Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Collaborative Human Milk Research, says there is a lot of vaccine hesitancy within the breastfeeding community.

"We want to make sure that women who breastfeed, don't have to decide between if I take the vaccine, do I have to stop breast-feeding, or if I continue breastfeeding is this really good for my baby?” Dr. Bode said. Larsson-Rosenquist Foundation of Switzerland gave emergency funding to do the study for the Mother-Milk-Infant Center of Research Excellence also known as MOMI CORE.

"There is no data on safety as breast-feeding women were not included in any of the trials for the vaccine, as always, we are trying to protect these women from research, but really we should include them in the research to make proper recommendations,” he said.

Dr. Bode says breastfeeding mothers make antibodies, which could be transferred through the milk and then benefit the infant as well.

“We have the first milk samples coming in right now that we are starting to analyze."

So far, he says up to 2000 mothers have inquired about participating in this research from across the country and outside of the U.S. They have recruited about 500 breastfeeding moms to join. They ideally want to collect milk samples from mothers before they gets the Covid-19 vaccine to have a baseline sample and then multiple time points after vaccination.

“It's a process, I think it's 7 to 8 milk samples per mom that we are asking for, and mom can just store them at home, and then we will send out shipping packs to get delivered to us,” Dr. Bode said.

The San Diego Breastfeeding Center said there is just not enough information out there for them to make a statement at this time on any possible impacts.

As for the impact that coronavirus has had on breastfeeding moms?

“When women actually get infected with the virus while they are breast-feeding, do we see whether the virus makes it into human milk? We have shown that that is not the case, so women who breastfeed should continue to breastfeed, there is no risk to the infant because the virus might come through the milk, that is not the case,” Dr. Bode said.

Dr. Bode says mothers should absolutely get the Covid-19 vaccine.

“We think that there is a double win really for mom to take the vaccine, and it is good for mom and the baby.”

Anyone interested can visit milk.ucsd.edu or email milk@ucsd.edu to the study coordinators.

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