It’s that time of the year again, flu season. The vaccines are out and for breastfeeding moms there is nothing to fear, the vaccine is safe and won’t harm the baby.
In fact, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends breastfeeding moms become vaccinated as a way not just to protect themselves, but the baby, too. Since the earliest age the vaccine can be given is six months, being vaccinated helps mom protect baby by transporting the protective antibodies through the mother’s milk to the infant.
As a new mother, it is more important than ever to stay healthy. The flu virus is spread through droplets from coughing and sneezing, which make the infant of a sick mother vulnerable to infection. If there are other children in the family, they are also at risk when mom is sick. Studies have shown that very young children are at higher risk of complications if they contract the flu. New mothers, including breastfeeding moms should protect themselves by getting the vaccine as soon as it is available.
Breastfeeding woman can be administered the vaccine by shot or the nasal spray form and there is little worry about contracting the illness from the vaccine since breastfeeding does not negatively affect a woman’s immune system. According to the CDC, the flu vaccine is fully compatible with breastfeeding and safe for moms.
In a tip sheet for protecting babies from getting the flu, published by the International Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA), a worldwide network of lactation professionals, the necessity of being vaccinated while breastfeeding an infant until it is six-months of age is critical. During the first six months, as the baby begins to mature and explore, it becomes more vulnerable to germs. While there may be new strains of the flu virus introduced from year to year, breastfeeding mothers can still be reassured. The flu vaccines are custom-made to fight specific forms of the virus and a mother’s milk is “custom made” to protect the baby and help fight germs, “even if they are brand new germs” such as those in a new strain of flu.
Other suggestions by the ILCA include keeping the baby close, since skin-to-skin contact with the mother has shown to stabilize the baby’s heart rate and strengthen its immune system. Carrying the baby in the arms or in a sling also protects them from exposure to other others, some of who may be sick. Mothers should wash their hands and the hands of their babies often and should only give the baby things that can be washed thoroughly.
More dangerous than the common cold, the flu virus is nothing to sneeze about. For women who are breastfeeding, the need for vaccination becomes more important since the vaccine can protect both the mother and the newborn. For those breastfeeding moms, who are afraid the flu vaccine my harm their baby, there is no reason to fear, it looks like getting vaccinated is perfectly safe for you and your child.
By: Lisa Nance