Concerns of whether nursing mothers who are infected with the deadly coronavirus or COVID-19 can breastfeed their babies have been answered in a new study.
According to the recent study, besides being the best source of nutrition for babies and protection against illness, breast milk that contains COVID-19 antibodies can protect infants.
The study authors therefore advised nursing mothers who are infected with COVID-19 to continue to breastfeed their babies while undergoing treatment and much long after they might have been cured.
The yet-to-be reviewed study, which has been uploaded to the preprint server for health science, MedRxiv, is designed on the hypothesis that there is some proportion of antibodies in human milk that comes from blood — making it likely that breast milk contains antibodies to treat COVID-19, reports Reuters.
Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Infectious Diseases of the Icahn School of Medicine, Mount Sinai, New York, Dr. Rebecca Powell, led the study, noting, “Right now, there are about 900 women involved,” and she expects that the number will continue to grow.
The expert explained that in carrying out the study, 15 milk samples were obtained and tested for reactivity from donors previously infected with COVID-19, while 10 negative control samples were also part of the research.
“The data and findings from the study indicate that there is a strong COVID-19 immune response in human milk after infection in the majority of individuals and that a comprehensive study of this response is highly warranted,” the study concludes.
Dr. Powell advised nursing mothers who are infected with the COVID-19 to continue to breastfeed their babies throughout the illness and beyond.
“Because other researchers have shown that transmission does not occur via milk and we have determined that antibodies are almost certainly there, and may protect their babies from infection.
“We hope that the antibody levels in breast milk are high and have protective function. This is important for breastfed babies, obviously,” the study said.
Reuters notes that Dr. Powell in an interview with Forbes report, months before conducting the study, had said,
“Beyond that, if there are high levels of protective antibodies, those antibodies could be purified and used in treatments in severe cases of COVID-19.”
The lead researcher, however, warned against purchasing and consuming breast milk off the internet, adding, “any bodily fluid can carry other illnesses.”
“I’m talking about purifying specific antibodies from the milk and using therapeutically,” she clarified.
Dr. Powell’s research is said to be similar to current studies on the antibodies of blood plasma, but that the collection of breast milk is non-invasive and looks at a particular population — lactating women.