Did you know that breast feeding can protect and reduce the spread of the flu in infants?
According to lactation consultants, along with the Centers for Disease Control, breast feeding has several benefits to protecting infants from contracting the flu if the pregnant or nursing mother takes the appropriate precautions.
Pregnant or nursing women should make an extra effort to get the flu vaccine.
“Woman who are pregnant are more vulnerable to the seasonal flu, so protective measures such as receiving the correct vaccines, along with preventative care such as hand washing and avoiding close contact with infected individuals, will help protect from the flu,” says Cindy Boudreaux, RN and Ochsner Lactation Consultant.
Even if you contract the seasonal flu, you should continue breast feeding. According to the CDC, a mother’s body makes antibodies to fight diseases in which they come into contact; therefore, even if you catch the seasonal flu your breast milk is “custom made” to fight the diseases in which your infant is exposed.
“Breast milk may not prevent infants from getting the flu, but the anti-infective cells in breast milk can help infants contract a less severe case of the seasonal flu.” says Boudreaux. “However, if you develop symptoms of the flu such as fever, cough or sore throat, you should ask a family member who is not sick to feed your baby your expressed milk.”
Breast milk is the best hydration for an infant who has contracted the flu.
“Breast milk is 90 percent water and can protect against dehydration,” says Boudreaux. “And, unlike formula, the nutrients are very easily and completely digested and less irritating to a sick stomach. The CDC affirms that breast milk is better than anything else, even water and juice, because of its protective properties. Even if a mom has to feed through a bottle, syringe or eye-dropper, because baby is too sick to breast feed, it’s worth the extra effort.”
Babies can benefit more from breast milk when they’re sick because that is when they need more fluids. Ochsner lactation consultants recommend that moms give their infants more opportunities to breast feed when they’re sick, in an attempt to reduce dehydration.
There are plenty more benefits to breastfeeding your baby. Take the time to learn more about why breast milk is the best milk.
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Editor's note: This article was originally published on June 22, 2018, but has been updated.