When you are exposed to a virus, your baby is usually exposed to the same one. Thankfully, your body begins to produce antibodies to fight off the illness. Those antibodies make their way into your milk and are passed on to your baby when you breastfeed. It is important to continue nursing so your baby gets the antibodies you are making in response to the virus. These antibodies help your baby to recover from the illness and can also make the illness less severe. This is very important because your baby’s own immune-system will not be fully mature until she is about seven to eight years old.
Giving a boost to your baby’s immature immune systems is part of the natural design of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect your baby when viruses are in your family. You and your family can also reduce the risk of contracting and spreading the flu by following these steps:
- Wash hands frequently (or use hand sanitizer in the absence of soap and water)
- Do not share drinking glasses or eating utensils
- Avoid touching your face, nose and mouth when out in the community
- If you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or handkerchief. Don’t cough or sneeze into your bent elbow, as some health experts recommend for other people who have the flu, because that puts the virus too close to where you hold a breastfeeding baby’s head.
- If someone in your family or workplace is ill, please avoid attending events (such as LLLC meetings) where you might be around pregnant women. Remember that you can spread the illness before you have any symptoms. Many Groups offer virtual meetings which are a good option if you or a member of your family is ill.
If you need to take medication, it can be encouraging to know that most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding. But it is wise to get accurate information on specific medications to be certain. For example, decongestants are one medication that can potentially reduce your milk supply. If possible, avoid these medications while breastfeeding. If you are told that you cannot breastfeed while taking a particular medication, ensure this advice is supported by evidence. Some doctors recommend that mothers pump and discard the milk when on medications when this is rarely necessary. You can contact your local La Leche League Leader for more information specific to your situation. LLL Leaders have access to current resources on medications and breastfeeding. They can also address other breastfeeding concerns you might have.
Consult your healthcare provider if you are concerned about your baby’s health.
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