Flu season is around the corner and talk of flu shots and home remedies are popping up in newsfeeds everywhere. But for mums like me, who breastfeed their babies, we need to know, can breastfeeding help prevent a baby from catching the flu?
It turns out the answer is yes. And also no.
Breastfeeding And The Flu
Breastmilk carries not just nutrients, calories, and needed fat for your baby to grow but it also carries mom’s antibodies. Whatever bug has mum come down with, her own immunity will build up antibodies to fight the bug off and she will pass those same antibodies to her child, which can lead to prevention of certain kinds of infections.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breastmilk can do some pretty impressive things for a baby’s immunity toward the flu. The CDC reports on its website that, “Breast milk provides protections against many respiratory diseases, including influenza (flu). A mother with suspected or confirmed flu should take all possible precautions to avoid spreading the virus to her infant while continuing to provide breast milk to her infant.”
Get A Flu Shot
Mums who get a flu shot can begin to build up antibodies that she can then pass on to her baby through breastmilk. The CDC says that flu shots are safe for pregnant women and breastfeeding mums, but make sure you talk to your medical provider before signing up for a flu shot to make sure it is safe for you.
Keep Breastfeeding Even If You Get Sick
Mums who are breastfeeding will not pass the flu onto their child through breastmilk. They can, however, pass it on in other ways. It is vitally important that mums take precautions when sick by washing hands frequently, taking an anti-viral medication through your doctor, and eating well and resting.
But If You Get Too Sick to Breastfeed
Try to express breastmilk and have your baby eat that instead. Breastmilk is the best source of food for a baby, especially during the flu season. For many mums, breastfeeding can be extremely problematic during the flu and they switch to formula. That is absolutely ok and no mum should ever feel guilty for switching. Remember, a well-fed baby is a healthy baby and during the flu that is hugely important.
Babies do get the flu and it can be scary. If your baby gets a fever or develops any signs of flu then call your doctor right away.
If there is a flu outbreak in your family then make sure that everyone stays hydrated and as comfortable as possible. Disinfect surfaces including door knobs, toilets and sinks, and any objects that people touch frequently such as light switches and remote controls. Have plenty of soups, teas, and juices on hand for those upset tummies and don’t be afraid to binge watch everything on Netflix while you’re down for the count. Having the flu can be a terrible experience but with some prep, education, and healthy hygiene practices, you can avoid or get through it as quickly as possible.
To learn more about the flu and the flu vaccine you can visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention here.