It's baa-aack! COVID-19 cases are ticking back up again, and it is increasingly clear that COVID may be here to stay for some time. Many parents may be thinking about ways to protect young babies from the virus.
Milkify customers frequently ask whether our breast milk freeze-drying process preserves the protective effects of the mother’s COVID vaccination or prior infection (also known as natural immunity). Research done on immune components in breast milk and freeze-drying suggests that the answer is likely YES! In this blog post, we break down the science for you, and explain how to make this work in practice:
How Does Breast Milk Help Provide Immunity to Viruses?
The body’s immune system produces antibodies in response to viral infection or vaccination. The antibodies (also known as immunoglobulins) “remember” components of the virus, so the next time the person encounters the virus, the immune system has a road map of how to respond. There are several different types of immunoglobulins with different distributions throughout the body. The most abundant immunoglobulin found in breast milk is IgA, though IgG and IgM are also present. Babies have immature immune systems, and the antibodies found in breast milk help the baby fight off viruses and other disease while their immune system is developing. This is one reason why breast milk is so important for your baby's health and development.
Babies have immature immune systems, and the antibodies found in breast milk help them fight off viruses and other disease while their immune system is developing.
Are COVID-Specific Antibodies Found in Breast Milk?
Yes! Multiple studies published within the last year found that both IgG and IgA antibodies specific to COVID-19 were present in breast milk of moms who were vaccinated or who previously contracted COVID. Furthermore, breast milk samples taken after vaccination were shown to neutralize components of the SARS-CoV2 virus in a test tube. Most of the studies focused on the mRNA-based vaccines (Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech), which produced the strongest antibody response, though antibodies were also detected in breast milk after vaccination with the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Johnson&Johnson/Janssen vaccines.
So if you are a breastfeeding mom who is vaccinated against COVID-19, or has natural immunity, you likely have antibodies in your milk that can help protect your infant. In vaccinated mothers, these antibodies begin to appear within 1-2 weeks after the first vaccine dose, peak after the second dose, and are present in the breast milk for at least 3 months after vaccination. Antibodies acquired from natural immunity also persist for at least 3 months after infection. So if you were pumping during this timeframe, your milk may contain antibodies that can protect your infant against COVID-19.
Are COVID Antibodies Preserved During Milkify’s Freeze-Dry Process?
Freeze-drying using gentle heat, like that used in Milkify’s process, is effective at preserving immune components in breast milk. A study using a technique very similar to Milkify’s found that, on average, 75% of IgA and 80% of IgG was retained during freeze-drying.
Therefore, there is a very good chance that freeze-drying your breast milk with Milkify preserves COVID-19 antibodies that can help protect your baby.
A study using a technique very similar to Milkify’s found that, on average, 75% of IgA and 80% of IgG was retained during freeze-drying.
I Have Pumped Breast Milk Stored That Has COVID-19 Antibodies. What’s Next?
Let’s look at a real scenario for a mom who wants to utilize freeze-drying to preserve breast milk with COVID antibodies. Breast milk pumped within 3 months after COVID vaccination or
infection will be best for this purpose.
Label the bag containing the breast milk from these pumping sessions.
Example: “2 months post COVID"
Example: "6 weeks post booster"
Our Milkify team saves this information for you. We will include all your notes on the labels of each individual bag of breast milk powder you receive from Milkify.
Use it! Whether your baby gets sick in one month, or three months, or even next year (up to three (3) years!), you can grab that labeled pouch that contains powdered breast milk with your COVID antibodies, and feed it to your baby. If your child is no longer taking a bottle, you can sprinkle the breast milk powder into purees or other foods!
We at Milkify will continue to monitor and stay up-to-date on the most recent research in this evolving field, and share our findings with you.
Have questions about this process, or anything else related to Milkify and how we can help you save your freezer stash of breast milk? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org