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

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There are many ways that breastfeeding and breast milk protect babies’ health.  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.

Since this is a new virus, we don’t know yet about specific protection against it. Mothers pass on protective antibodies to their baby during breastfeeding.  Antibodies are a type of protein made by the immune system in the body.  Antibodies help fight off infection. 

If you are sick with flu and are breastfeeding, someone who is not sick can give your baby your expressed milk. 

Should I stop breastfeeding my baby if I think I have come in contact with the flu?

No.  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.  It is OK to take medicines to prevent the flu while you are breastfeeding.  You should make sure you wash your hands often and take everyday precautions ( http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm).  However, if you develop symptoms of the flu such as fever, cough, or sore throat, you should ask someone who is not sick to care for your baby.  If you become sick, someone who is not sick can give your baby your expressed milk.

Is it okay to take medicine to treat or prevent novel H1N1 flu while breastfeeding?

Yes.  Mothers who are breastfeeding and taking medicine to treat flu because they are sick should express their breast milk for bottle feedings, which can be given to your baby by someone who is not sick.  Mothers who are breastfeeding and are taking medicines to prevent the flu because they have been exposed to the virus should continue to feed their baby at the breast as long as they do not have symptoms of the flu such as fever, cough, or sore throat.

If my baby is sick, is it okay to breastfeed?

Yes. One of the best things you can do for your sick baby is keep breastfeeding.

  • Do not stop breastfeeding if your baby is sick. Give your baby many chances to breastfeed throughout the illness.  Babies who are sick need more fluids than when they are well.  The fluid babies get from breast milk is better than anything else, even better than water, juice, or Pedialyte® because it also helps protect your baby’s immune system.
  • If your baby is too sick to breastfeed, he or she can drink your milk from a cup, bottle, syringe, or eye-dropper.

Please check back to the CDC H1N1 website often for the most recent updates.

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WebMD Public Information from the CDC

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