CLEVELAND — Breast milk is liquid gold for a reason and nursing moms know every drop counts, but what if it could do more than nourish a child?
That's what researchers want to find out. There’s been a lot of discussions about whether it can be used to fight off and even treat severe cases of COVID-19. One Ohio neonatologist says the research is in its infancy. However, they say there is plenty of evidence showing breast milk protects against the risk of hospitalization for lower respiratory issues. It's why nursing mothers with covid are encouraged to keep nursing just as Debbie Pappadakes did when she contracted the virus in November.
"I feel really good about the fact that such a small person has been exposed and is now getting an immune response they think that hopefully will protect him if he does get exposed again," she said.
But when her son needed to start a new diet, Pappadakes worried her freezer stash of milk and potential COVID-19 antibodies would go to waste. Though, her outlook changed when she found a breastfeeding group and shared she had 100 ounces of liquid gold to give away to other mothers in need.
"I just wanted to give him a head start because at this point, I was not making any more milk so I was not able to share any of the antibodies I was making,” said Emily Jump-Reitz.
While this kind of milk sharing isn't all that uncommon, some doctors warn against it since bacteria and viruses can be transferred through breast milk.
"I think taking milk from a person you don't know is definitely very risky,” said Jennifer McCallister, MD/ Pediatrician with Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
Jump-Reitz says she understands the risks and keeps a checklist to stay safe whenever she receives breast milk.
"I kind of decided the risk was outweighed by the benefits."
The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine says if you do share breast milk informally make sure it’s with a family member or someone you trust. A lot of hospitals already use donated breast milk that is pasteurized and cultured to help new moms and babies in need.