Should a mother continue to breastfeed if she has been exposed to influenza?
What if she has tested positive for the flu, or has other children that have it? Should she temporarily wean the baby to protect him?
These questions have been frequently asked by many mothers of breastfeeding newborns over the last few weeks. As the lactation consultant at Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, NC, I have been asked these questions several times in the last few days alone.
Breastfeeding mothers SHOULD continue to breastfeed even if they have influenza, or have been exposed to it. Breastfeeding protects the newborn from infections, as antibodies from the mother’s body are passed to the newborn through the milk. The flu virus, as with any virus, has an incubation period. This is the time before the onset of symptoms. Since breastfeeding mothers and babies share the same environment, the mother and baby are likely exposed to the virus at the same time. During this incubation period, the mother’s body begins to produce these protective antibodies for the baby. Breastfeeding (and handwashing!) is the best protection for the newborn.
In the case where a mother is receiving anti-viral medications, such as Tamiflu, breastfeeding is still not contraindicated. The mother should continue to breastfeed as desired.
Please do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician in Raleigh, NC, to discuss any concerns you have about flu symptoms, or breastfeeding.
You may call Carolina Kids Pediatrics at (919) 881-9009 to schedule an appointment with me. I’ll be glad to help with any of your breastfeeding concerns.
Jerrianne Webb, RN, IBCLC
For more information: