Protecting Your Baby From Swine Flu

Should You Stop Breastfeeding?

Parents of infants are understandably worried about the recent spread of H1N1 flu virus (known as the “swine flu”). What can you do to protect your baby from the illness? Health officials at the national Centers for Disease Control have this advice:

Take everyday precautions. Wash your hands often with soap and don’t cough or sneeze in your baby’s face. In fact, if you’re ill, and coughing or sneezing, you should consider wearing a mask when you’re around your baby.

If you are breastfeeding, don’t stop – even if you believe you have been exposed to or have the flu. Mothers pass on protective antibodies when breastfeeding their babies, and these help infants fight infection. That’s why breastfeeding is so important, especially during a baby’s first 6 months of life. Because moms make antibodies to fight the diseases they come in contact with, the breast milk they produce is custom-made to fight illnesses their babies are exposed to as well.

Breastfeed early and often, and limit formula feeding as much as possible. If you are too sick to breastfeed, pump and have someone give the expressed milk to your baby.

It’s safe to breastfeed even if you are taking medication prescribed by your doctor to treat or prevent H1N1 flu.

If your baby becomes ill with the flu, continue to breastfeed. Babies who are sick need more fluids than when they are well, and the fluid they get from breast milk is considered better than anything else, including water, juice or even Pedialyte®.

If your baby is too sick to breastfeed, try feeding him or her your milk from a cup, bottle, syringe or eye-dropper.

The swine flu virus was first detected in the United States last month and is spreading from person-to-person, probably in the same way regular influenza spreads. Currently, there are more than 1,500 confirmed cases of this new virus worldwide. Only one American has died from the illness so far – a 33-year-old schoolteacher from Texas who reportedly had underlying health issues.

For updated information on H1N1, visit the CDC Web site.
– Deirdre Wilson