Mother's milk can help protect infants from H1N1

With the H1N1 flu strain particularly threatening to young children, parents and caregivers are wondering what they can do to protect newborns who are too young to be vaccinated.

Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says that while little is known about preventing H1N1 flu infection in infants, following everyday precautions such as washing your hands with soap and water before handling a baby is always a good idea.

Breastfeeding is also beneficial, he says.

“It’s well-documented that babies who aren’t breastfed get sick from infections like the flu more often and more severely than breastfed babies,” Dr. Kahn says. “That’s because breast milk is custom-made to fight diseases that both a mother and her baby are exposed to.”

Dr. Kahn says that while a mother who is healthy shouldn’t stop breastfeeding an ill child, a mother who comes down with the flu should consider expressing her breast milk for bottle feedings so that some of her immunity continues to pass on to the infant. Flu shots are only offered to infants at least 6 months old.

“This way, the baby reaps all the advantages of the breast milk without being exposed to the additional germs mom may be carrying around,” he says.

Media Contact: Kristen Holland Shear

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