What is the Breastfeeding Center of Charleston’s opinion on the Covid-19 Vaccine for women who are currently breastfeeding or pumping? 
For breastfeeding women, receiving the COVID vaccine should be considered on a case by case basis with consideration to the prevalence in the community at the time and the risk of exposure for the mother.  This decision should be made in conjunction with the mother’s physician.   The safety of the COVID-19 vaccine during lactation is not yet known as breastfeeding women were not included in the clinical trials.  We feel the COVID-19 vaccine is likely safe as all non-live vaccines are safe to receive during lactation.  There are currently no studies evaluating mRNA vaccines and lactation, however, consensus of the experts is that the mRNA would be rapidly degraded after injection into the muscle and the amount that would get to a mother’s breastmilk is likely to be very low;  any mRNA that is transferred is likely to be digested and have no effect on the infant.   We will continue to amend this with new CDC/FDA recommendations when available. 
Does the COVID-19 vaccine get transferred into breastmilk?    
We do not know because lactating women were excluded from the initial clinical trials. Scientists think that it is unlikely, as with other mRNA vaccines, most is broken down by the muscle when it is injected.    The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states that “It is unlikely that the vaccine lipid would enter the blood stream and reach breast tissue.  In the unlikely event that the mRNA is present in the breastmilk, it would be expected to be digested by the child.”
Could the vaccine be helpful to my baby if I am breastfeeding? 
It is plausible that there may be some benefits for the nursing infant.  The vaccine will trigger the mother to have an immune response and make antibodies and infection fighting white blood cells called T-cells that we know can transfer in breastmilk.   This may help the baby fight infection if your baby is exposed to Coronavirus-19. 
Are most vaccines safe when breastfeeding?  
Yes.   According to the CDC and the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine all vaccines except smallpox and yellow fever (which are both live vaccines) are safe for breastfeeding mothers and do not cause any harm to babies.  Many vaccines, like the flu vaccine, may offer some protection to the breastfeeding baby as the mother develops antibodies to the flu that can then transfer to the baby through the breastmilk. 
What considerations should I consider when deciding to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
Mothers should consider their risk of exposure to coronavirus-19.   For instance, a mother who works in a hospital would be at higher risk that one that is working from home.     Mothers should also consider their individual health risks if they get coronavirus-19.  We advise having a discussion with your healthcare provider about your specific health status and circumstances when considering the vaccine. 
Should I stop breastfeeding if I get the COVID-19 vaccine?
We do not believe it is necessary, nor do we recommend, to stop breastfeeding after vaccination.  This opinion is shared by the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine as well as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the leading authority on maternal healthcare.
What are some of the common side effects to watch for if I do get vaccinated? 
Systemic signs and symptoms following COVID-19 vaccination can include fever, fatigue, headache, chills, myalgia, and arthralgia. Most are mild to moderate in severity; occur within the first 3 days of vaccination; and resolve within 1-2 days of onset.    Side effects  were more commonly reported after the second dose than after the first dose.  Cough, shortness of breath, rhinorrhea, sore throat, or loss of taste or smell are not consistent with post-vaccination symptom, but symptoms of active infection from COVID-19.  
If you experience a symptom after vaccination you can report it directly to the CDC.   Visit to learn more. 
How can I help with research about COVID-19 and breastfeeding? 
The Infant Risk Center is one of the leading breastfeeding research centers.  They currently have ongoing studies that relate to breastfeeding during a pandemic, breastfeeding and coronavirus infection, as well as breastfeeding while taking medications used to treat coronavirus.   Visit for more information on how you may be able to help. 



Environmentally Friendly Breastfeeding Tips

August 1st marks the start of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7), as well as National Breastfeeding Month. All month long, families are celebrating the incredible benefits of breastfeeding.
As consistent scientific evidence presents itself,  breastfeeding saves lives by protecting babies from life-threatening infections and illnesses. Not to mention, that breastfeeding also is cost effecting and is better for the planet.
Dr. Milliron shares with us some interesting tips on the environmentally friendliness and sustainability of breastfeeding
  • Breastmilk is the most locally produced, environmentally friendly, and sustainable food that you can feed your baby and gives babies all the nutrients they need for the first several months of their life!
  • Breast milk requires no packaging, shipping, or advertising, saving natural resources like glass, plastic, metal, and paper. It generates no trash for landfills.
  • By breastfeeding your baby, you are saving on electricity or fuel that is used in the preparation and manufacturing of infant formula. Feeding baby at the breast saves energy wasted on sterilizing bottles and refrigeration of milk.
  • Unlike breastmilk, cow’s milk-based artificial infant and toddler milk have a negative impact on the environment, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and contributing to global warming through their manufacturing and processing. Methane and CO2 produced from cows contribute to the greenhouse effect and their sewage contributes to the pollution of lakes and rivers. Breastmilk is produced efficiently by the mother and is a carbon-neutral food.
  • Many infant formulas contain soy which uses pesticides to grow and its farming is a contributor to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest.
  • According to a 2019 study by The Imperial College, London, “Overall, breastfeeding for six months saves an estimated 95-153kg CO2 equivalent per baby compared with formula feeding.”



COVID-19 and Immune Boosting Breastfeeding Tips

The Breastfeeding Center of Charleston is here to help mothers who choose to breastfeed to provide their newborns immune-boosting breast milk. Here are some helpful facts to help you safely and successfully breastfeed during COVID-19.


First and foremost, breast milk provides protection against many illnesses and is the best source of nutrition for most infants. 
  • Breastmilk contains large amounts of the mother’s immune fighting cells called immunoglobulins, especially IgAwhich can help neutralize infection and prevent inflammation. 
  • White blood cells called leukocytes also pass to the baby through the breastmilk and help fight infection 
  • Human Milk Oligosaccharides (sugars) can help by binding to harmul bacteria. 
  • Lactoferrin in breastmilk can help stall bacteria from replicating by binding to iron 
  • Some studies suggest that breastmilk may help an infant’s immune system to develop faster and babies that are breastfed have better antibody response to vaccinations. 


For all mothers of newborns during the Coronavirus Pandemic: 
  • Continue to follow basic newborn safety guidelines such as keeping your baby protected during the first 4-6 weeks of life while their immune system is developing. 
  • Ensure that anyone around your baby is healthy and has not been exposed to coronavirus. All caregivers should wear masks and wash their hands frequently when providing care for your baby. 
  • No one kisses baby except you and dad. 
  • Ideally, family who comes to visit with you and baby should be adhering to strict social distancing for 2 weeks before the visit.  
  • Avoid large numbers of visitors into the home; consider drive-by visits, outside visits, or online platforms to see the baby.
  • Consider the benefits of help and support a visitor may bring vs the risks of a new visitor into the house. 
  • Use your pediatrician as a resource.  We can help guide you through any changes in CDC and AAP guidelines.  If your comfort levels are more conservative than your family’s you can always blame your pediatrician! 


Guidelines for COVID positive Breastfeeding Mothers 

  • At this time, we do not know for sure if mothers with COVID-19 can spread the virus to babies in their breast milk, but the limited data available suggest this is not likely.
  • If you have COVID-19 and choose to breastfeed:
  • Wear a face mask while breastfeeding and wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before each feeding.
  • If you inadvertently sneeze or cough onto your breast, wash the area before putting baby to the breast. 

If you have COVID-19 and choose to express breast milk:

  • Use a dedicated breast pump (not shared).
  • Wear a mask during expression and wash your hand and lower arms with soap and water for at least 20 seconds before touching any pump or bottle parts and before expressing breast milk.
  • Ensure that you are cleaning pump parts and any surface they come in contact with after each use.   Parts should be sterilized once daily. 
  • If possible, expressed breast milk should be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver who does not have COVID-19, is not at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19, and is living in the same home.

Ideally, regardless of how you choose to feed your baby,  if you are positive for COVID19, your baby should be primarily cared for by a non-infected adult and distanced from any COVID positive family members.




Top 10 Tips for New Moms

Dr. Bess Milliron

Being a new mom is both exciting and stressful. While baby books may help, often times when your sweet bundle of joy arrives, your world changes. Medical Director, Bess Milliron from the Breastfeeding Center of Charleston shares 10 helpful tips for new moms.
  1. Seek breastfeeding support.  Breastfeeding may be natural, but it is not easy.   I wish someone had recommended for me to reach out to a lactation consultant with my first baby.  Things were going relatively well, but I could have avoided suffering through sore nipples and made pumping more efficient had a reached out to professional support. I recommend to new moms to see lactation soon after they are discharged from the hospital because a lot of things change in those first couple days home. When looking for a lactation consultant, look for one that is an IBCLC which is the highest certification in the lactation world and get personal feedback from other mom friends. A good IBCLC should be there to support your feeding goals and optimize your breastfeeding experience. The Breastfeeding Center of Charleston always here to support local moms.
  2. Find your tribe. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but sometimes you have to really seek out that village. Reach out to friends that have children for support. Join mom groups or lactation support groups in your area. Having a shared experience can allow you to learn from your peers and have your struggles validated if you hit road bumps in child-rearing.  Zoom with friends and family if you are not able to get there in person.  
  3. Don’t hesitate to take offers for help. New moms often do not know what to ask others to do or feel that they should be doing everything themselves. Try to open up and have tasks for others to support you. Family and friends can make meals that you can freeze, run errands for you so you can stay and snuggle with baby, wash bottles and pump parts, or hold your baby so you can get a much-needed nap.
  4. Invest in a good Velcro swaddle. Babies like to be secure and snuggled.  At night a swaddle can help recreate this so you can put the baby down.    Babies are little Houdini’s and can get out of the best swaddle blanket.  A Velcro swaddle makes the middle of the night swaddles so much easier, as well as, safer as there are no loose pieces of the blanket that may come out. I am partial to the Halo baby swaddles. Make sure you get a couple to rotate in case you have a middle of the night spit up or diaper disaster. Always make sure you transition baby out of the swaddle when they are learning to roll to adhere to safe sleep guidelines.
  5. Coconut oil really does work for everything.  I prefer to have moms use this rather than lanolin for nipple soothing. It is safe for baby so no need to wipe off before the next feeding. It has natural antimicrobial and antifungal properties so it can help with cracked nipples as well. There have been good studies to show it has benefits with infant eczema and it can also be used with cradle cap to help soften flakes.
  6. Be a smart shopper with infant clothes. Babies can be messy with spit up and blow out diapers.   Some will be born too big for the newborn sizes and they continue to grow quickly in the first couple months of life. Buy clothes in the first couple of months from discount stores or take hand me downs from friends/family. Even if that little jean jacket and bowtie or ballerina skirt is the cutest thing ever, I guarantee they will only get used for pictures. Skip the snaps and ties and go for magnetic closures or zippers for easier transitions. Save the photo-ready outfits for toddlerhood.
  7. Keep spare baby items in the car. You will always run out of clean diapers at the least opportune time.  Keeping spare diapers, wipes, and a change of clothes for baby in the care can be helpful when you are in a pinch. Add some extra baby toys, baggies to put soiled clothes in, diaper cream, and teething rings too. A change of clothes for mom is always a smart idea.  It was always at daycare drop off on the way to work when my son would spit up on me.  Having the change of clothes helped me avoid odd stares about the mystery substance on my shoulder for the rest of the day.
  8. Start good sleep hygiene early.  While I don’t schedule babies in the newborn period I do recommend having a consistent bedtime routine.  This will help your baby learn patterns at night and start to associate the routine with sleep.  Dim lighting, a favorite lullaby, baby massage, whatever is in your routine to help set patterns.  Always adhere to safe sleep guidelines of a firm surface without any loose blankets or pillows.  As your baby ages, try putting them down drowsy, but awake so they are aware of their sleep environment.
  9. Read to your baby. Even in the newborn period reading, singing, and talking to your baby is so important. Your voice is soothing to your baby. Reading and singing to them can promote bonding.  Babies will learn from the tone, rhythm, and inflection of your voice as they grow.  Studies have shown that babies that are exposed to more language and that are read to as newborns have better verbal skills at age three and may learn to read sooner themselves than their peers. You are also setting them up for a great shared experience as they grow and a love of books.
  10. Educate yourself on postpartum depression and anxiety.  A subject that is not often talked about between friends or family, but that so many moms experience.  70-80% of women will experience at minimum the baby blues and a new study has shown that as many as 1 in 7 will go on to experience true postpartum depression or anxiety in the first year postpartum.   It is important to have a support person educated on this as well so they can be a second set up eyes for your wellbeing.  Find resources in your area to learn more and seek help if needed.  MUSC Women's Reproductive Behavioral Health Program and Postpartum Support Charleston are two great sources of support in the Charleston area.