4 Reasons Why Breastfeeding Mothers With Influenza Shouldn’t Be Separated From Their Babies

4 Reasons Why Breastfeeding Mothers With Influenza Shouldn’t Be Separated From Their Babies

We know how important breastfeeding is for the health of babies and their mothers.

Breastfeeding can reduce a child’s risk of ear, gastrointestinal or respiratory infections.

Research has suggested breastfeeding could prevent 57% of hospital admissions for respiratory infections.

Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection spread by contact with fluids from coughs and sneezes.

4 Reasons Why Breastfeeding Mothers With Influenza Shouldn’t Be Separated From Their Babies

Astonishingly, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has put out a recommendation that mothers with influenza be separated from their babies, and should not breastfeed.

This recommendation makes absolutely no sense and here are 4 reasons why.

#1: Most Viral Infections Are Infectious Before Symptoms Occur

When you catch a virus, there is what is known as an incubation period.

This is the time between initial exposure to an infection and the appearance of the first symptoms.

The typical incubation period for influenza is 1-4 days. The virus can be passed on a few days before symptoms appear.

This means a mother who has contracted influenza can pass the virus to her baby before she is aware of any symptoms.

Breastfeeding mothers and their babies share the same environment. Therefore, if a mother has contracted an infection, there’s a strong possibility her baby has contracted it too.

There is absolutely no point separating a mother and her baby if they both have the same infection.

#2: Cough And Fever Don’t Necessarily Signify Influenza

Respiratory infections are common. It’s estimated every person has about three cases of respiratory infections every year. Not all of these respiratory infections are due to influenza.

Not everyone who has potentially contracted influenza rushes off to a doctor to be tested for influenza. As a result, an influenza diagnosis can be delayed or not made at all.

It is extremely unrealistic for a breastfeeding mother to stop breastfeeding and to be separated from her baby at the first sign of cough and fever.

#3: Breastfeeding Actually Helps Protect A Baby

It appears the CDC has ignored the immunological protection that breastfeeding provides a child.

When a mother comes down with a viral infection, her breastmilk helps to protect her baby by passing on immune protective factors (eg antibodies) to her baby.

You can read more about this in 5 Ways Breastmilk Is Important For A Baby’s Immune System.

Evidence shows breastfeeding reduces the risk of infection, even when a mother has the same infection.

And, if the baby were to come down with the infection, breastfeeding can help him recover more quickly.

#4: Interrupting Breastfeeding Can Have Disastrous Consequences

Separating a breastfeeding mother from her baby, even for a short period of time, can have negative consequences.

Breastfeeding provides children with more than just nutrition. It provides them with a sense of security, warmth and comfort. Stopping breastfeeding, even if only for a short time, can be emotionally very traumatic for a child. Not being breastfed actually increases a child’s risk of infection!

Stopping breastfeeding, even temporarily, is not good for a mother’s breast health either. It increases her risk of engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis. It also increases the risk of a reduction in supply.

So, as you can see, this recommendation from CDC is nonsense.

No other organisation recommends separating a breastfeeding mother from her child in these circumstances; in fact they recommend exactly the opposite.

The CDC should retract this information immediately.

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Renee Kam IBCLC CONTRIBUTOR

Renee Kam is mother to Jessica and Lara, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


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