community health worker counsels breastfeeding mother
USAID/Nepal

On February 5, the COVID-19 Infant Feeding Research Interest Group (CIF-RIG) held its monthly discussion of research and evidence related to infant feeding practices and COVID-19. The February meeting focused on COVID-19 vaccines guidelines for breastfeeding women and human milk banking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fatmata Sesay, UNICEF, shared critical optimal breastfeeding practices in the context of COVID-19 and discussed how the pandemic has impacted breastfeeding and threatens to reverse breastfeeding gains. She then gave an overview of WHO/SAGE recommendations for using the Pfizer-TioNTech, Moderna, and Astra Zeneca vaccines during breastfeeding and provided a brief highlight about what is known about mRNA vaccines and breastfeeding. Finally, she summarized what has happened to date with vaccine rollout and breastfeeding and gave a call-to-action for vaccine developers, researchers, funders, and policy makers to generate evidence on vaccination safety for breastfeeding, analyze the risk/benefit tradeoff of vaccination and breastfeeding, and to urge governments to adopt WHO/SAGE recommendations.

Next, was a panel presentation about human milk banking and the use of donor human milk during the COVID-19 pandemic, organized by PATH. The panel began with a short overview about human milk banking, how it works, its purpose, and how COVID-19 has impacted the provision of safe donor human milk. Six additional panelists shared experiences with human milk banking during COVID-19 around the world, revealing surprising trends in different countries.

  • Ms. Kim Updegrove provided perspectives from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America
  • Ms. Gillian Weaver shared UK experiences and the creation of a Global Virtual Network (GAMBA)
  • Dr. Natalie Shenker discussed research questions that have been answered and remain
  • Dr. Sushma Nangia shared perspectives from India
  • Ms. Jenny Wright shared perspectives from South Africa
  • Dr. Aleksandra Wesolowska shared perspectives from Poland, including the COVID-19 vaccine and donation

The session ended with a short Q&A session.

View the slides, recording, Q&A, and other meeting materials.