Breastfeeding mothers with influenza
The Centre for Disease Control has updated their recommendations in February 2019 and BellyBelly has updated this article to reflect those recommendations.
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
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends mothers with influenza should take precautions to avoid giving their babies the virus while continuing to breastfeed.
It may seem a little strange to keep a mother close to her baby if she has influenza. After all, we want don’t want to make our babies and might wonder if it’s better to stop breastfeeding to avoid being too close.
However, there are 4 reasons why this recommendation makes perfect sense.
#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.
#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.
#3: Breastfeeding Actually Helps Protect A Baby
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 makes sense. Taking precautions to avoid passing on the virus include:
- Washing hands with soap and water before touching their baby or anything their baby will touch
- If too sick to feed at the breast, if possible expressed breastmilk should be fed to the baby by a healthy caregiver.