Misleading posts claim Covid-19 antibodies cause breast milk to change color
Social media posts featuring an image of two bags of breast milk claim one is greenish because the mother is producing antibodies in response to the child having Covid-19. But experts say breast milk color can change for many reasons and a green tint does not necessarily mean that either mother or child are sick with the disease.
"Baby has covid.. Mom does not. Look at the changes in the milk!" says a January 21, 2021 Facebook post shared more than 10,000 times.
"What your witnessing here is baby letting Mamas body know that they were sick and Mamas body responding with antibodies," it says.
The claim about breastfeeding -- which has been the subject of misinformation during the Covid-19 crisis -- continued to circulate in 2022, including on Facebook here and here.
Kathryn Gray, an attending physician in maternal fetal medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital, told AFP: "Breast milk can be lots of different colors all the time, depending on what you eat, and depending on if you're taking any medicines. So, antibodies don't cause breast milk or any other fluid to turn a specific color."
Diet, medication and even the time of day can result in different colors, explained Gray, who is also a professor at Harvard Medical School. Regarding the social media image, she said: "I would suspect that color change is due to one of those factors," not Covid-19.
There is generally nothing to worry about from a color change in breast milk, with the exception of red or pink from cracked or bleeding breasts, in which case the mother should take care of herself, not worry about the milk, Gray said.
International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Gina Boling of The Breastfeeding Center for Greater Washington agreed that greenish milk does not specifically signal Covid-19 antibodies.
"Milk can be green for a number of reasons, so I would not assume that if someone has green milk that they have Covid," she said.
Professor of pediatrics Lori Feldman-Winter said there is no evidence that having Covid-19 or Covid-19 antibodies following infection or vaccination will turn breastmilk green.
Scientists do know that following "illness with Covid-19, and preferably vaccination against Covid-19, there are neutralizing antibodies in breastmilk that can potentially protect the baby from getting ill," she said.
"Bottom line, vaccinate and breastfeed," Feldman-Winter added.