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'Extra protection:' New mothers breastfeeding babies longer in hopes of passing on COVID-19 vaccine antibodies

"Even if it's a 1% benefit to him to keep him well, I'll keep doing it," said vaccinated Fort Worth mom Brooke Scogin, who'll continue to breastfeed her baby.

FORT WORTH, Texas — Breastfeeding has been part of Brooke Scogin's parenting journey for all three of her little boys.

"I've always been so grateful and thankful it's been something I could do," the Fort Worth mother said. 

But with her youngest, Maxwell, born just as the pandemic took hold, she's breastfeeding him more and longer than she did with her older two. In fact, she said by this point in the baby's life, she'd normally be tapering off, but instead, she's ensuring her supply remains strong.

Why? Scogin got the COVID-19 vaccine in February, and now she's hoping her antibodies are being passed on to Maxwell through her milk.

"It's worth it," Scogin said. "Even if it's a 1% benefit to him to keep him well, I'll keep doing it."

Dr. Lori Atkins, a Fort Worth OB-GYN with FENOM Women's Care, said it's a great idea.

"I know a lot of women that have continued to breastfeed for this extra protection," Atkins said. "I have one patient who wasn’t able to get her vaccine until after she delivered, and she's going to nurse this child as long as she can."

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So what do we know about whether the vaccine protects breastmilk-fed babies?

"The antibodies in milk from all sorts of vaccinations, they have always been there and are likely protecting babies, but we just haven't talked about it that much until the pandemic," said Dr. Rebecca Powell, a human milk immunologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. 

Powell is currently researching the vaccine's impact on breastmilk, and through that research, she believes that vaccinated breastfeeding mothers are giving their children some level of temporary protection.

"This is not the same as vaccinating your children," she said. 

It's not the same as getting a vaccine while pregnant, either. 

"This is likely to offer a certain level of protection, but the more milk, the better. Because this is what we call passive protection, so it's replenished every time the baby feeds."

RELATED: Study 'strongly' suggests pregnant women who've recovered from COVID-19 pass antibodies to their unborn babies

She said that means an exclusively breastfed baby, who receives the milk many times a day, would be more protected than a baby who receives just a few ounces. 

"It's going to be a while until young children are vaccinated, so this is at least something I think that can be offered," Powell said.

This is not to put pressure on mothers to prolong breastfeeding, or even to re-lactate (start creating milk again after weaning). This is only if it works for you.

For Scogin, the Fort Worth mother of three, she has no plans to stop breastfeeding her youngest.

"Hopefully I've kept him healthy," she said.

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