Breastfeeding and Pertussis Protection

February 26, 2018 by: Pediatrics for Parents staff Article Tags: ,

The Question: Does breastfeeding protect unimmunized infants from pertussis?

The Study: The 61 infants in this study who were admitted to the hospital for pertussis (whooping cough) were under six months old and unimmunized for pertussis. The control group was 235 infants admitted for an ultrasound screening. The levels of antibodies for pertussis were measured in the infants’ blood, the mothers’ blood, and the mothers’ breast milk. The feeding patterns for all the infants (exclusively breastfed, partially breastfed, or bottle fed) was recorded.

The Results: The breastfeeding status of the infants had no influence on the chances of the infants contracting whooping cough. What did increase the chance of contracting whooping cough was having a sibling. Of interest is that the whooping cough antibody level in the blood of the mothers of the infants with pertussis were elevated, but that antibody level was not higher in their breast milk.

Comment: Although breastfeeding helps protect infants against many diseases, it doesn’t do so with pertussis. Immunization of all children and adults that are around infants and infants is critical.

Read More: Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal, 03/17