COVID-19 mRNA vaccine and antibody response in lactating women: a prospective cohort study

BMC Pregnancy Childbirth. 2021 Sep 17;21(1):632. doi: 10.1186/s12884-021-04051-6.


Background: Immunological protection via breastfeeding is well known. The immunological profile of human milk changes during lactation. No clinical trials have been conducted in lactating women with the newest mRNA vaccines against SARS- CoV-2. A Few studies have shown the presence of antibodies in breastmilk after vaccination. The aim of this work is to study possible antibodies transfer via breastmilk and also the immunological characteristics of lactating women compared to non-lactating women, after using the BNT162b2 Pfizer vaccine.

Methods: This is a prospective cohort study with a convenience homogenous sample of 24 healthcare workers (14 lactating and 10 non-lactating women) enrolled at the time of COVID-19 vaccination. Clinical data was registered in a questionnaire. Titers of SARS-CoV-2 spike IgG, IgA and IgM were quantified in post vaccination blood and human milk. Antibody quantification was performed by an in-house ELISA to SARS-CoV-2 trimeric spike protein.

Results: All women showed immunity after vaccination with positive antibodies for IgM, IgA and IgG antibodies. The dominant serum antibody response was IgG. Modest levels of antibodies in breastmilk of lactating mothers were observed in this study, especially IgG in 42.9%. There was a moderate association between higher titers of IgG and a longer duration of breastfeeding (R= 0.55, p=0.041).

Conclusions: Evidence of antibody transfer in human milk after COVID-19 vaccination is scarce. The presence of antibodies in human milk is reported, but immunization through breastfeeding is still to be established.

Keywords: Antibodies; Breastfeeding; Covid-19; mRNA vaccination.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Viral / metabolism*
  • BNT162 Vaccine
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Breast Feeding*
  • COVID-19 / immunology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Lactation / immunology*
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*


  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Biomarkers
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • BNT162 Vaccine