Woman recieving vaccination

A new daily rhythm, inner resilience, and the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding

Franni is a primary care nurse practitioner with a background in OB/GYN nursing. She takes care of people when they are sick, and sees folks for routine check ups and follow ups on chronic conditions. She has also worked in the hospital and community caring for people who are trying to conceive, pregnant, and postpartum. And, last, but not very much not least, she is an Ovia Health coach!

Franni has a little one, who is just under a year old (lots of growth and exploration and snuggles!). She is currently breastfeeding and plans to continue through age one or so. This is her story about her decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine while breastfeeding. 

Published January 27, 2021

In so many ways the world seemed to stop when COVID hit, can you tell us a bit about those first few weeks? 

The first few weeks were pretty scary. As a pregnant essential worker, I had to balance caring for patients with keeping my growing family safe. On the day of my 40-week prenatal visit, the hospital announced they were no longer allowing support people on labor and delivery. I decided to get induced so my partner and mother could be present. Several days later, shelter in place orders went into effect. My mom flew back across the country, and we had no visitors or outside help for 4 months.

How has the pandemic impacted your time with your baby and your family?

Early days were long and a little lonely. While I adore my baby more than anything, I found caring for a newborn to be physically, mentally, and emotionally draining at times. COVID also removed my usual outlets for stress relief, like yoga classes and spending time with friends. On the bright side, without distractions, my partner and I became very attuned to our baby’s needs and fell into a rhythm quickly. Out of necessity, we perfected our communication skills. Our relationship got so much stronger as a result of the constant time together and common goal of keeping our baby safe and happy.

Moving through those early days helped me tap into an inner resilience I didn’t know I had. The experience gave me confidence in my own strength, and my ability to be a mother.

When did you decide to get the COVID-19 vaccine?

I decided to get the vaccine after it was offered to me by my employer in January 2021.

What factors influenced your decision?

I reviewed the scientific literature and recommendations from medical agencies I respect. To be honest, the scant data on whether this vaccine is safe for breastfeeding parents made me nervous. That being said, the risk of contracting COVID-19 at work or in the community is much higher than the hypothetical downside of getting the vaccine. The more I read about the vaccines, the more confident I felt that this was the right thing for me to do. Because the vaccine does not include any live virus and the components are small, it does not appear that any vaccine components will travel through the breastmilk or harm my milk supply. What really sealed the deal was the potential benefit of giving antibodies to my child through breastmilk.

I also based my decision on emotion. I want to protect my family and my patients. For me, it is important that I do my small part to end the pandemic. I want to lead by example and inspire other breastfeeding parents to consider getting vaccinated.

Where are you at in the process of being vaccinated? 

First dose done!

Can you share more about the experience of receiving the vaccine? 

It was very speedy. Other than a quick pinch when getting the shot, I had no symptoms. I worked out about an hour later, and my arm didn’t feel sore. I did get a mild headache a few hours later that went away after drinking water and taking a Tylenol.

What’s something you wish more people knew about the COVID-19 vaccine?

While there is some benefit to getting the first shot, it is important to get both doses. Don’t let your guard down in the weeks in-between, or after the vaccination series is complete. Continue to mask up, social distance, wash your hands, and lead the healthiest life you can.

Anything else you’d like to share?

It is OK to feel nervous about vaccines, especially new ones. If you have questions, reach out to a healthcare professional you trust. You deserve to be listened to and respected when making a choice about what goes into your body. It is only through mutual respect that we can stop the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.

This interview is part of a three part series Ovia hosted with healthcare professionals about the decision to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Read other stories in the series here and here

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