Swine flu: Breastfeeding Provides Protection

The CDC issued guidelines for moms who are breastfeeding, or considering breastfeeding, and are concerned about the swine flu (H1N1 flu).   The swine flu is a particularly nasty strain of flu that is spreading from person-to-person just like the regular flu.   I might add that this information is helpful too, for any mom who is feeding formula but has access to screened, pasteurized donor milk from a human milk bank.  I thought these guidelines were excellent, and show just how critical breastfeeding is!

Here is a summary, beyond the already widespread urging to wash hands and not cough or sneeze on anybody, including your baby.   (If you are ill, or coughing and sneezing, you may want to see a doctor to be tested for the flu and consider wearing a mask.)

  • Breastfeed to protect your baby.  Nursing moms make antibodies to viruses and pass these along to their babies while nursing, or through expressed milk.   Antibodies help fight infection, so the best thing all mothers can do is continue breastfeeding.  “Flu can be very serious in young babies. Babies who are not breastfed get sick from infections like the flu more often and more severely than babies who are breastfed.”

    Not how we got the swine flu, but a cute picture!

    Not how we got the swine flu, but a cute picture!

  • Don’t stop breastfeeding if you think you have come into contact with the flu.   “Because mothers make antibodies to fight diseases they come in contact with, their milk is custom-made to fight the diseases their babies are exposed to as well. This is really important in young babies when their immune system is still developing. Breastfeeding also helps the baby to develop his own ability to fight off diseases.”
  • Breastfeed even if you are sick with the swine flu, or any other flu.  “Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds as much as possible. This will help protect your baby from infection.  If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby.”
  • If your baby is sick, breastfeed!   “One of the best things you can do for your sick baby is keep breastfeeding.  Babies who are sick need more fluids, and breast milk is better than water, juice or Pedialyte®.   Breastmilk is easier to digest (some babies who have a stomach virus will throw up Pedialyte®, but not breastmilk) and is custom-made for your baby, meaning that the water content of your breastmilk adjusts to what your baby needs.   Also, did you know that your breasts can detect a one degree drop in temperature in your baby and warm up to act as an incubator?
  • “If your baby is too sick to breastfeed, he or she can drink your milk from a cup, bottle, syringe, or eye-dropper.” Using these types of feeding methods will ensure that your baby goes back to the breast easily.   Using a nipple and a bottle may cause your baby to change his/her “latch” which can make breastfeeding difficult and/or painful.
  • If no expressed milk is available, you can give your baby milk donated by other mothers to a HMBANA-certified milk bank.”
  • Continue breastfeeding even if you are taking medicine for the flu.   If your doctor is unsure about whether you can continue breastfeeding, or says you should stop, refer them to the CDC guidelines or the  CDC H1N1 website often for the most recent updates. 



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1 Comment | Last revised on 05/05/2009


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