When the breast-feeding mother is exposed to a mild viral illness, her body quickly produces specific antibodies that protect the baby. However, good hygiene practices remain vital to reduce the baby’s exposure to the virus. Such measures include thorough hand washing and use of hand-sanitising gels before feeds, or placing a light blanket over the baby while feeding (to act as a screen). Feeding can continue while a mother is taking specific flu remedies or antiviral drugs. A mother with a high fever must drink plenty of fluids and a breast-fed baby with a fever should feed more frequently. Expressing milk is recommended: it enables others to feed the baby while the mother is ill (to aid her recovery), and helps the baby to continue receiving antibodies to the mother’s infection. If the baby develops symptoms of the infection, these are usually milder. Medical advice must be sought promptly if either the mother’s or baby’s condition deteriorates.
Further information (specific to H1N1 ‘flu, but useful for all mild viral infections)
- US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/infantfeeding.htm. Accessed 12 Nov 2009.
- Department of Health. http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Healthcare/Children/Maternity/Maternalandinfantnutrition/DH_099965. Accessed 12 Nov 2009.
From: Journal of Family Health Care Bulletin. Directory of Breast-Feeding Advice. December 2009. Published with JFHC 2009; 19(6). http://www.jfhc.co.uk/images/stories/breastfeeding.pdf