Safe for breastfeeding mothers to receive the COVID-19 vaccination and to continue to breastfeed
The Ministry of Health now recommends for both pregnant and breastfeeding women to receive the vaccine as the risks of COVID-19 infection outweigh the potential risks of vaccination. The new guidelines issued on 31 May 2021 also states that breastfeeding mothers can continue to breastfeed immediately after receiving vaccination1.
There is no need to suspend breastfeeding for five to seven days or to discard breast milk.
International organisations such as the World Health Organization2, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine3, the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)4 and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG)5 recommend breastfeeding women who receive the COVID-19 vaccine to continue breastfeeding post vaccination because the mRNA vaccine is unlikely to cause harm.
With large populations, including breastfeeding women, being vaccinated globally, there is now evidence to support this recommendation.
Protective antibodies found in breast milk five to seven days after vaccination
It has been shown that the breastfeeding women produce high levels of specific anti-virus antibodies in response to the vaccine. These protective antibodies can be detected in breast milk as early as five to seven days after vaccination. In addition to being protected themselves, breastfeeding mothers who get vaccinated have an added advantage of providing passive immunisation for their newborns as the transfer of antibodies to their babies via breastfeeding has been shown to be efficient.6
Study finds no serious adverse outcomes for mothers and babies arising from COVID-19 vaccination
An Israeli study of 84 breastfeeding women who received the COVID-19 vaccine, published in May 2021 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)6, found that these mothers produced antibodies specifically countering the COVID-19 virus. At the same time, they and their infants also did not suffer any serious adverse reactions or events arising from the COVID-19 vaccination.
Women who choose to defer breastfeeding, and do not have excess breast milk during the post-vaccination period, may
contact the KK Human Milk Bank for pasteurised donor human milk (PDHM) for their infants, if the infant is less than a year old.
Associate Professor Chua Mei Chien, Head and Senior Consultant, Department of Neonatology; Director, KK Human Milk Bank, KKH
Associate Professor Chua Mei Chien has a special interest in early nutrition including breastfeeding and the impact of nutrition on long-term health. She has collaborated extensively with multidisciplinary teams, both locally and regionally, to develop evidence-based nutritional protocols. Assoc Prof Chua holds teaching positions with all three medical schools and is an avid researcher involved in a number of research collaborations including the “Growing up in Singapore Towards healthy Outcomes” (GUSTO).
- Ministry of Health, Singapore, Expert Committee on Covid-19 vaccination expands medical eligibility for MRNA vaccines.
- World Health organization, The Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine: What you need to know.
- Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine statement for Covid-19 vaccination in lactation.
- Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Covid-19 vaccines while pregnant or breastfeeding.
- The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Covid-19 vaccines, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
- Perl SH, Uzan-Yulzari A, Klainer H, Asiskovich L, Youngster M, Rinott E, Youngster I. SARS-CoV-2-Specific Antibodies in Breast Milk After COVID-19 Vaccination of Breastfeeding Women. JAMA. 2021 May 18;325(19):2013-2014. doi: 10.1001/jama.2021.5782. PMID: 33843975; PMCID: PMC8042567.