Ontario recently announced that fourth doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are available to all Ontarians over the age of 18. With the province in its seventh wave of the pandemic, we asked the experts at the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank to highlight some frequently asked questions to help those who are breastfeeding, as well as current and potential milk donors make informed decisions.
I have received my COVID-19 vaccine. Can I still donate?
It is recommended to be up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccination, as soon as it becomes available to you, and you may continue to express and store your milk. There is no deferral period for donors, therefore it is safe to donate your milk following a vaccination.
It is important for you to note the day of your vaccine and which vaccine you received. Please continue to express and store your milk and contact the milk bank for further advice once you have been vaccinated.
To help guide your decision-making on vaccination, here is an infographic from the Provincial Council on Maternal and Child Health. “I am pregnant. Should I get the COVID-19 Vaccine?”
I’m breastfeeding and I’ve had an exposure to COVID-19. What does this mean for breastfeeding?
Mother’s milk contains an abundance of antibodies and other immune factors to protect her baby from harmful bacteria and viruses. In rare cases, when a mother is positive for COVID-19, the virus may appear in her milk. As indicated in this article, current recommendations are for mothers who have COVID-19 to wear a mask and wash their hands well, but to continue to breastfeed their babies! Your antibodies are an important form of protection from COVID-19. If you are unable to breastfeed, then pumping your milk to give to your baby is the next best option for infant feeding.
I’m COVID positive. Can I still donate the milk that I pump?
For mothers who have abundant milk supply and who are eligible to be milk donors, we encourage you to consider milk donation once you and your household have recovered. Research has shown that pasteurization, done at an authorized milk bank, kills viruses in the donated milk making it safe for the sick or preterm infants at hospitals supplied by the Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank.
World Breastfeeding Week is celebrated annually during the first week of August. There are approximately 1,500 low birth weight babies in hospitals across Ontario every year, 70 per cent of those don’t have access to a full supply of their mother’s own milk. The Rogers Hixon Ontario Human Milk Bank provides prescribed donated human milk so medically fragile babies get the nutrients and antibodies required for optimal growth and health.