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Novel H1N1 Flu (Swine Flu) and Feeding your Baby: What Parents Should Know

This document updates previously posted information for parents about infant feeding and novel H1N1 flu (swine flu).  It now more clearly addresses parents who are formula feeding as well as breastfeeding, suggests that parents sick with novel H1N1 flu (swine flu) find someone who is not sick to feed the baby, and provides more detailed strategies for breastfeeding mothers to maintain breastfeeding throughout the course of infection. This document is based on current knowledge of the novel H1N1 flu outbreak in the United States, and may be revised as more information becomes available. 

What is this new flu virus?

This novel H1N1 flu virus (sometimes called “swine flu”) was first detected in people in April 2009 in the United States. This virus is spreading from person-to-person, probably in much the same way that regular seasonal influenza viruses spread.

What can I do to protect my baby?

Take everyday precautions such as washing your hands with plain soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand rub before feeding your baby.  More tips on good health habits for preventing sickness from the flu virus can be found at this website:   http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm.  In addition, try not to cough or sneeze in the baby’s face while feeding your baby, or any other time you and your baby are close. If possible, only family members who are not sick should care for infants.  If you are sick and there is no one else to care for your baby, wear a facemask, if available and tolerable, and cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing.  For more information, see the Interim Recommendations for Facemask and Respirator Use.

Is it ok to for me to feed my baby if I am sick?

Infants are thought to be at higher risk for severe illness from novel influenza A (H1N1) infection and very little is known about prevention of novel H1N1 flu infection in infants. If you are breastfeeding or giving your baby infant formula, a cautious approach would be to protect your baby from exposure to the flu virus in the following ways:

  • Ask for help from someone who is not sick to feed and care for your baby, if possible.
  • If there is no one else who can take care of your baby while you are sick, try to wear a face mask at all times when you are feeding or caring for your baby.  You should also be very careful about washing your hands and taking everyday precautions to prevent your baby from getting flu ( http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm).  Using a cloth blanket between you and your baby during feedings might also help.
  • If you are breastfeeding, someone who is not sick can give your baby your expressed milk.  Ideally babies less than about 6 months of age should get their feedings from breast milk.  It is OK to take medicines to treat the flu while you are breastfeeding.

Does breastfeeding protect babies from this new flu virus?

WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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