Bringing home a new baby has always been a nerve-wracking time for most families. Previously, families would worry about their new baby catching the flu, RSV or other viral infections during their first few weeks of life, but having a child during the COVID-19 pandemic has just added to those fears and raises many new questions. Deaconess Clinic Pediatrician, Dr. Rust, answers frequently asked questions about bringing a new baby home during the pandemic.
What should a parent do if they themselves become COVID positive?
While many infants have done well overall after contracting the COVID-19 disease, the long term effects of contracting COVID are still largely unknown. If a parent in the household develops COVID or COVID symptoms, it is important to isolate away from the infant in the home when able. Based on the World Health Organization (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendations, new moms who are breastfeeding should continue breastfeeding or feeding expressed breast milk to her infant during her illness, but should take precautions to avoid spreading the illness to the infant. These precautions would include good hand hygiene prior to breastfeeding and wearing a mask during all interactions with the infant while infectious. At this time, the virus has not been detected in breast milk and a mother’s milk is not believed to transmit COVID-19. Breast milk in itself provides significant benefits for baby including protection against many different illness.
Should breastfeeding moms get the COVID vaccine?
As the COVID Vaccines become more widely available to the public, many families are wondering whether or not they should receive the COVID vaccine. Initial studies of the COVID vaccines did not include pregnant or lactating women, and so there is no safety data specifically for these vaccines. However, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM), the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), as well as several other medical organizations, recommends that lactating mothers be classified separately from pregnant women when considering the COVID vaccine. While lactating women were not included in these studies, these women should discuss the risk and benefits of vaccination for their specific situation. At this time, many of the front-line workers fall into this category, and without the vaccine, they are at significant risk of contracting COVID and developing serious health consequences. According to the ABM statement from December 14, 2020, there is little “biological plausibility that the vaccine will cause harm, and antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in milk may protect the breastfeeding child.” It is unlikely that the mRNA protein would even reach the breast tissue or be excreted into the milk. Like with other vaccines, IgA antibodies may be transferred into milk to protect the baby from a future COVID infection. At this time, per the CDC, the majority of vaccines have been proven to be safe in lactating women with the exception of small pox and yellow fever.
Is the COVID vaccine available for children?
No, at this time there are no FDA approved COVID vaccines available for children. Initial studies of the various vaccines did not include children so no efficacy and safety data exist at this time. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has put out a statement asking the companies producing these COVID vaccines to begin trials in younger populations, with Pfizer starting to enroll children in initial studies at this time. It is the hope of pediatricians everywhere that children will be able to have a safe and effective vaccine available to them as they represent a large portion of the population and thus contribute to the spread of the virus during this pandemic.
For more information:
As always, the information regarding COVID-19 is quickly evolving and it is important to discuss any specific questions or concerns with your and your child’s provider.
For COVID Vaccines Scheduling:
If you are currently among the group eligible to receive the COVID vaccine, you can schedule your vaccination using the link below:
ABM Statement on Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) – March 10, 2020 https://www.bfmed.org/abm-statement-coronavirus
ABM Statement: Considerations for COVID-19 Vaccination in Lactation – December 14, 2020 https://www.bfmed.org/abm-statement-considerations-for-covid-19-vaccination-in-lactation
CDC: COVID-19: Pregnancy and Breastfeeding – January 7, 2021 https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/vaccines/recommendations/pregnancy.html
World Health Organization: Breastfeeding and COVID-19 June 23, 2020 https://www.who.int/news-room/commentaries/detail/breastfeeding-and-covid-19
AAP News: Include children in COVID-19 vaccine trials – November 17, 2020 https://www.aappublications.org/news/2020/11/17/covidvaccinetrials111720