Study finds that infants breastfed by mothers who have had to deal with Covid have higher levels than formula-fed infants.

  • A new study has found that women who contract Covid while they are pregnant will have antibodies in their breastmilk which they can pass on their babies.
  • Researchers found that formula-fed babies had higher levels than formula-fed newborns.
  • These findings suggest that mothers can pass the virus protection to their babies.
  • Another study found that breastmilk may have inherent virus-fighting qualities. 

A new study suggests that a mother may be able transfer COVID-19 protection to her baby via breastmilk.

Sapienza University, Rome, conducted antibody tests on infants born to mothers who had contracted Covid.

To determine if there were antibodies in breastmilk, they also collected samples from mothers twice as soon as their babies were born.

Researchers discovered that babies breastfed by mothers with Covid had some protection and higher antibody levels than infants who were formula fed.

The study is a fascinating example of how virus antibodies spread. It could help explain why infants are not likely to be affected by severe cases of Covid.

Researchers found that babies who were fed via breastfeeding (right) have Covid antibodies, while those that were fed with baby formula (left) often did not

Researchers discovered that babies who were breastfed (right) had Covid antibodies. Baby formula (left) did not.

Two days after giving birth, women's breastmilk was showing high antibody levels (left). While the antibody levels had waned two months later, antibodies were still being found in breastmilk samples (right)

Two days after giving life, high levels of antibody were found in breastmilk from women (left). Even though antibody levels declined two months later (left), antibodies were still found in breastmilk samples

‘Our findings indicate that the mother’s immune system stimulates and trains the neonatal immune system for active protection via delivery of breastmilk immune complexes,’ researchers wrote.

“The [Covid]The pandemic has shown that although this pathogen is often infected by elderly and adult individuals, and can cause severe and even fatal disease, infants and children rarely experience acute COVID-19 symptoms.

The team collected data from 28 women who gave naissance at Policlinico Umberto I between November 2020 – May 2021 for the study.

All of the women had contracted Covid during pregnancy. Many were considered to have been’recent’ infections.

Breastmilk samples from women were taken 48 hours after giving birth. They were then collected again at follow up visits with researchers two and a half months later.

For Covid antibodies testing, saliva samples from babies were also collected at the same points.

Researchers discovered that breastmilk was high in Covid antibodies immediately after delivery.

Although antibody levels in milk samples have decreased over time many mothers still produce antibodies in their milk two to three months later.

This was also proven to be beneficial for babies.

Researchers found that babies whose mothers breastfed them rather than using baby formula had higher levels of Covid antibodies after performing saliva tests.

The Italian study is one of many that finds women can pass protection from Covid on to their children via their breastmilk (file image)

One of many studies that found women can pass Covid protection to their children through breastmilk is the one from Italy (file image).

These findings suggest that women who have had an infection with Covid antibodies in their blood may be able to pass some of that protection onto their children.

Researchers wrote that their findings suggest that maternal immunity extends beyond passive immunity. The immune complexes found in breastmilk stimulate the active development the neonatal immune system. 

Although Covid is not thought be a major concern for newborns, breastfeeding may help to prevent them from getting infected.

These findings are not new.

A September study revealed that antibodies could be passed from mothers to their babies up to ten month after the birth. 

An earlier Chinese study found that breastmilk, even without Covid antibodies, may have some protective properties against the virus in a recent Chinese study.