Study Updates:

Update from 3/15/2023:

The study investigators (Drs. Arcaro, Sibeko and Sturgeon) and the entire research team thank you for your help with the New Moms Wellness Study!

We want to give you an update about the study, to share a few staff bios, and to share a few recipes. We also wanted to share some results from other studies about breastfeeding and COVID-19. 

So far, we have 338 mom and baby pairs taking part in our study and have over 50 more women awaiting the birth of their child to officially enroll. We are thrilled to have so many people give their time so generously to help us with this work that will contribute important knowledge on women and children’s health. We have collected and stored 1760 breast milk samples, 913 infant fecal specimens, and many 24-hour food recalls!  Thank you for your time and commitment to the study to help us achieve this great progress! We are very grateful.

Congratulations to our 18 raffle winners for our monthly drawing that we have had, so far! We have given a total of $3600 in Amazon gift cards to raffle winners to date. Remember, you are eligible for the monthly raffle for the month after you complete each of study visits #3 to #5 and provide study samples. 

We are very excited to share that we have expanded our geographic radius to include pregnant and new moms that live within 35 miles of the City of Worcester, MA.

Recruitment has been challenging during the pandemic and we hope to enroll another 50 women to meet our study goal. Personal referrals are important to help us reach our goal of 400 study participants. Please consider sharing information about the study with family or friends, who live within 35 miles of Amherst/UMass OR Worcester, MA, through social media, emails, parent groups, or word of mouth:

·       Our website: https://blogs.umass.edu/newmomswellness/

·       Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UMass.NMWS  

We also know it’s an effort to participate in all the parts of the study. Please reach out to us if we can help you navigate participation in the study.  

Please find a bit of information about other studies on breastfeeding and COVID-19, staff bios, and a few recipes on the next couple of pages.

Thank you, again!

Susan Sturgeon, Dr. PH ssturgeon@schoolph.umass.edu

Kathleen Arcaro, PhD karcaro@umass.edu

Lindiwe Sibeko, PhD lsibeko@nutrition.umass.edu

Team email: newmomswellness@umass.edu

Your Milk Protects Your Baby During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Back in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic almost shut down our lab.  But lactating moms wanted to know if breastfeeding was good for their baby, so we began three studies. 

In the first study, we collected colostrum from women giving birth at UMass Memorial Medical Center (UMMC, Worcester, MA) who were diagnosed with COVID-19 at delivery or while pregnant.  We found high levels of antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the illness.  These antibodies in the breastmilk enter your baby’s digestive tract and help reduce symptoms of COVID-19 infection. 

We expanded on this study by collecting milk samples over several months and examining both the antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the immune cells in the breastmilk.  Results showed a durable or long-lasting antibody response and an increase in a specific type of immune cell, memory T cells, in breastmilk that can help protect the breastfed baby.  

But does your vaccination help protect your baby?  The short answer is yes.  In another study, we showed that breast milk from vaccinated mothers neutralized the SARS-CoV-2 virus, basically preventing the virus from entering cells and causing illness.  So, your milk is full of antibodies and immune cells, that weaken the virus and stimulate the baby’s immune system. CDC recommends vaccines for babies over the age of 6 months old so be sure to talk to your pediatrician.

Arcaro Breast Milk Web Page

New Moms Wellness Web Page

Meet members of our New Moms Wellness Study research team!


Hi! My name is Brie and I am the Study Manager for the New Moms Wellness Study (NMWS). I oversee and assist with all aspects of the study including; conducting study visits, helping with screening, and managing and assisting our driving team. My role is to make sure that the many pieces of our team run smoothly! I have been working on the NMWS for just over 2 years now after having graduated from Umass-Amherst with a Master of Science in Epidemiology. I love working with our team and am passionate about the work we are doing. My favorite produce are raspberries and broccoli!


Hello! My name is Rachel Taylor and I am a Research Fellow on the study. My primary responsibilities include maintaining our biological sample inventory and training undergraduate students on the laboratory work we do. I also conduct study visits, communicate with incoming participants, and order supplies for our sample collection materials. In my free time I enjoy hiking, reading, and baking! My favorite fruit is grapefruit.


Hello! My name is Melissa and I am a nutrition research assistant with the New Moms Wellness Study. I primarily work with some of the mothers in the intervention group through the weekly counseling calls, which is also my favorite part of working for the study! I also help with data collection, input, and analysis with the food records and food recalls. I started working with the NMWS back in my freshman year (the beginning of 2020) at UMass Amherst packing the fruits and vegetables for the produce boxes, and I’m currently a senior. In my free time, I love reading fiction (especially romance and horror), cooking, gardening, going to spin, and spending time in nature. My favorite fruits and vegetables are raspberries and tomatoes.