With this being flu season there are many questions about breastfeeding and the flu. Breastfeeding provides immediate immune protection for your baby who hasn’t yet developed their own antibodies. When a breastfeeding mother is exposed to the flu (or other illnesses) her body will start to produce antibodies against the illness and thus pass them to her infant via her breastmilk which helps to protect the baby.
It is recommended that during flu season a breastfeeding or pregnant woman should get the flu vaccine because her body will develop the antibodies and pass them onto her baby through her breastmilk. Babies who are under 6 months cannot receive the flu vaccine and their immune systems aren’t mature yet. They rely on their mothers breastmilk for immunity.
If you have the flu or are sick, it is still recommended that you continue breastfeeding. Remember, since you have the flu, your body will produce antibodies and pass them to your baby through your breastmilk. To prevent passing your illness to your baby, remember to wash your hands before touching your baby and cover your mouth when sneezing and coughing.
If your baby has the flu continue to give your baby breastmilk, it is still the best source of nutrients and hydration. If you are unable to directly put baby to breast, then pumping is recommended.
Many lactation consultants provide virtual appointments (Telehealth). You can have an online video appointment to ask questions and get lactation support. These appointments are extremely convenient if you don’t live near any lactation support services or if you or someone in your family is experiencing an illness.
Remember to call your doctor if your baby has any symptoms of the flu or a fever of 100.4 and is under 3 months old.