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Flu Facts: Breastfeeding and the Flu

Updated: Jul 2, 2023

hand washing

It’s that time of year again…flu season! It comes around every year and, if you're anything like me, you can't wait for it to be over! Especially if you have a baby and are breastfeeding, you probably have some questions about flu season so let’s dive in!

What is the best way to prevent the flu?

Yearly flu vaccination, frequent hand washing and avoid anyone you know is sick. Avoiding crowds is a great idea especially if you have a little one. Typically flu is contagious from one day before symptom onset for about 5-7 days. Encourage family members, care providers and close contacts to get their flu shot too! Your baby will also be able to receive the vaccination when 6 months old.

Speaking of the flu shot, is it safe during pregnancy or breastfeeding?

YES! Not only will it protect you, but your body will make antibodies to pass along to your baby through breastmilk.

What if I still get the flu? Can I still breastfeed (or provide breastmilk)?

YES! Influenza is spread through respiratory secretions (not breastmilk). If you don’t feel well enough to breastfeed, you can use a breast pump and feed expressed milk until you feel well enough to nurse again.

How can I protect my baby if I have the flu?

Cover your cough and wash your hands frequently (and any time you have contact with your breasts or baby) to decrease transmission.

I've heard anti-viral medication can make me feel better faster but is it safe?

YES! Oseltamivir is the preferred anti-viral when breastfeeding and it works best when taken ASAP in the first 48 hours.

What about over the counter medications?

Many OTC meds for symptom management are safe and can help you feel a little better. Opt for shorter acting meds and try to treat only bothersome symptoms. Natural remedies like saline nose spray, nasal irrigation (neti pot), cool mist humidifier, warm fluids, etc. are also great options!

Click here for a handy list from the Infant Risk Center about safety of common medications:

What if my milk supply decreases?

A decrease in milk supply can happen for lots of reasons during illness – dehydration, low calorie intake, missed feedings, etc. In general, getting back to breastfeeding (and/or pumping) as soon as you can will help turn things around.

For more information:

Breastfeeding during influenza from the CDC - Link here.

I am here to help so don’t hesitate to reach out if you have more questions! If you need expert care, Breastfeeding Medicine visits are available in select States (FL, IA, ID, NE, NM and VT. As a Nurse Practitioner/IBCLC, I can also evaluate you via Telehealth for antiviral therapy to treat influenza, assist with improving milk supply after illness or other lactation-related concerns.

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