USBC Chair Joan Younger Meek, MD, MS, RD, FAAP, FABM, IBCLC, says “research clearly shows that breastfeeding provides a safe, reliable food source, full of disease-fighting cells and antibodies that help protect infants from germs and illnesses. Mothers exposed to influenza produce specific protection for their infants and transmit this through their breast milk. Infant formula does not provide these specific infection fighting properties. Unnecessary formula supplementation should be eliminated so the infant can receive as much benefit as possible from maternal protective antibodies and other immune protective factors.” This re-enforces the importance of breastfeeding specifically in emergency situations.
Women can breastfeed while receiving antiviral medications. The CDC recommends a sick woman should continue breastfeeding and increase the frequency of feedings. If either mother or infant is too ill to breastfeed directly at the breast, the mother should pump breast milk for her baby instead. If this is not possible, you may be able to get donated breast milk from the Human Milk Banking Associtaion of North America.
According to the CDC, the risk of transmission of H1N1 (swine) flu through breast milk is unknown. It is, however, rare that seasonal flu is transmitted through breast milk. Also, once the mother shows symptoms of flu, her infant has frequently already been exposed. Breast milk can in fact give additional protection to your baby from the flu.
To protect against the transmission of H1N1 (swine) flu breastfeed your children and ensure all parents and caregivers do the following to prevent spreading germs:
- Wash both adults and children’s hands with soap and water, especially if placed in the mouth
- Infants and mothers should enjoy lots of skin-to-skin contact
- Don’t share toys that have been in infant’s mouths. Wash them with soap and water if placed in the mouth.
- Don’t share pacifiers or let adults put them in their mouths (including the pacifier ring/handle)
- Cover nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
Breastfeeding boosts a child’s immune system and helps fight infection. This is a good idea at all times but even more so since the H1N1 (swine) flu outbreak. I’m glad to see yet another great reason why we should continue to keep our children boobiefed.