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World Breastfeeding Week, 2021: “Protect Breastfeeding: A Shared Responsibility”

One of the major questions that has been coming up is whether new mothers who are breastfeeding their babies can get the Covid-19 vaccine, and what impact it can have on the lactation process

Dr. Mansi Shah | Aug 03, 2021

The world observes World Breastfeeding Week between August 1 and 7, 2021. This year the power of this simple practice in contributing to infant and child health and survival takes on even greater significance, in the wake of the Covid 19 pandemic.

One of the major questions that has been coming up is whether new mothers who are breastfeeding their babies can get the Covid-19 vaccine, and what impact it can have on the lactation process. Earlier this year, the Government of India formally shared guidelines that approved vaccination among lactating mothers. Today, Poshan highlights a few important Do’s and Don’ts for such women, through the expert voice of Dr. Mansi Shah, Lactation Consultant, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai.

Do’s

  • Continue Breastfeeding after getting vaccinated.

The antibodies produced through Covid 19 vaccination could pass on to the baby through breastmilk and provide immunity, just like it has been with other vaccines

  • Drink a lot of water

Staying hydrated is extremely important both before and after vaccination as one of the most common side effects of the vaccine includes muscle pain, fatigue, headache and fever. Being properly hydrated can lessen the duration and intensity of side effects

  • Eat a well-balanced diet

To avoid serious side effects a well-balanced diet is a must. Superfoods like green leafy vegetables, turmeric or garlic are high in nutrients and boost immunity therefore they need to be included in the diet. Seasonal fruits rich in vitamin C also aid in fighting the vaccine’s side effects

  • Try to sleep well, as much as possible

Breastfeeding is known to improve quality and quantity of sleep by providing the mother slower wave deep sleep which reduces day time fatigue; meanwhile, after getting vaccinated the body relies on its own immune response to develop protection, and this can be strengthened if there is no sleep deprivation. The body is known to rebuild its defence mechanism during sleep and this can also help avoid stress which can further supress the immune system

  • Do some light exercise

Exercise – like an easy walk – is good. Exercise enhances blood circulation that can help in reducing the side effects of the vaccine

Don’ts

  • No vaccines have 100% success rate - Continuing to follow covid appropriate behaviour is critical for lactating women, as for all
  • Avoid strenuous exercise for at least 2-3 days- The body needs time to recover from the side effects of the vaccine
  • Avoid sleep deprivation
  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol affects the body immune system negatively and may also reduce the effectivity of the vaccine. Nicotine too is anyway known to pass to the infant through breastmilk.

(The author is a Lactation Consultant, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Mumbai)