By Dr Vanshika Gupta Adukia
The Government of India recently gave its approval to administer the COVID-19 vaccination to lactating women, who wish to take the dose. This approval comes after consistent backing and recommendations from The Federation of Obstetric & Gynecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC). Both bodies state that the “benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks” and therefore women who are breastfeeding must be educated about the vaccine and given the choice to make an informed decision.
Several lactating mothers find themselves in a dilemma regarding their next step with respect to the vaccine. Their major concerns revolve around the impact of the vaccine on their breastmilk supply and its effect on the infant.
For all such breastfeeding mothers it could prove to be assuring that many paediatricians across the country have further stated that vaccinating lactating mothers could help provide infants with antibodies via breast milk. This would further help build relative immunity against the virus in these children.
Recently, this reasoning was also backed by the President of the Indian Society of Clinical Research (ISCR), stating that vaccinating lactating mums gives protection against the virus for two as she is breastfeeding her baby.
Although there is limited data on the effect of the Indian vaccine on lactating women, it would be noteworthy that both vaccines available in India are non-live vaccines. Additionally, the spike protein used for these vaccines is being made using technology that is time-tested. Hence, it is believed that both the non-live Indian vaccines will not get excreted in breastmilk or be absorbed by infants.
Another point of discussion among breastfeeding mothers is to consider weaning their babies off breast milk in order to take the vaccine. Many misleading sources have been claiming that one must pause the process of breastfeeding for a couple of days post-vaccination, which are false claims and not medically supported. Contrary to this, it must be kept in mind that for infants under the age of six months, breast milk is the primary source of nutrition and highly recommended as their main source of food.
For those who still wish to take a gap from giving breastmilk in the immediate days post-vaccination, it is recommended that they look at offering previously expressed and stored breast milk to the infant during that time-frame. This will help ease the mother’s mind of any doubts that she may have but also look after the infant’s nutritional needs without negatively impacting the breastfeeding journey.
Vaccination in no way should be the reason to discontinue breastfeeding at any point.
(The writer is a Pregnancy/Childbirth and Lactation Specialist, Pelvic Floor Physiotherapist and the Founder of Therhappy.)
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