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Ask the Experts

Flu and Breastfeeding: Advice for Mothers

by Amanda Z. Naprawa  

Q: Is it safe to breastfeed my newborn if I have the flu?

A: You should not stop breastfeeding, but if you are too ill to feed the baby at the breast yourself, the CDC recommends that you express (pump) your breast milk to be fed to the infant by a healthy caregiver until you are feeling better. When expressing your breast milk, you should wash your hands well with soap and water and, if using a pump, follow recommendations for proper cleaning.

In addition, take other precautions to avoid spreading flu to your infant. Those include throughly washing and drying your hands with soap and water before touching the infant or any item that the infant will touch (including during feeding), as well as any time you sneeze or cough on your hands. You could also consider wearing a mask while caring for the baby to prevent the transmission of the virus.

Children under six months old are at increased risk of acquiring influenza because they cannot be vaccinated, and they are at high risk of serious flu-related complications. Because of the potential danger of flu for young children, the CDC strongly recommends that all caregivers of an infant receive the flu vaccine (as well as all pregnant women, who pass some protection to the baby in utero) and that all babies get vaccinated starting at six months.

Read the CDC’s full advice on infant feeding and influenza here.

First published February 2018. Updated March 2019.

Also see Breastfeeding: Have the Benefits Been Overblown?