Swine Flu and Breastfeeding

By Britney Glaser - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - As the CDC continues to monitor the swine flu outbreak, health officials are zeroing in on how to protect the most vulnerable population - infants. In this Healthcast, we find out why breastfeeding is being recommended as a critical strategy to prevent infection.

Doting first-time parents, Rob and Rikki Emanuel want to do whatever they can to keep their ten-week-old daughter, Eliza, healthy.  When faced with the decision over whether or not to breast feed Eliza, Rikki says looking into the benefits of breast milk made it an easy choice.  "Immunity for the baby, as far as them not being able to defend themselves from colds and the fact that you pass that on to them," says Rikki.

This immunity has health officials stepping up to say with the current swine flu outbreak, mothers that can breast feed their infants should.  Lake Charles Memorial Hospital Registered Nurse and Lactation Consultant, Marta Benglis says, "A mother's body makes immunities for the baby, so antibodies are actually formed in the mother's body by everything that she is exposed to - so she transfers those immunities to the baby."

Benglis says not only is the breast milk full of disease-fighting cells and antibodies, but it also contributes to marked improvements for children as they grow older.  "The baby's IQ is higher once they get to be school age," says Benglis, "and they get sick less often - so less problems with respiratory illnesses and allergies and stomach problems."

The Centers for Disease Control is also urging parents to remember to protect their babies in the same way they protect themselves - especially by keeping their hands, that often times end up in their mouths, clean!   "I'm washing hands more often," says Rikki, "just kind of being aware of if anybody seems to be sick, just being extra cautious. It's the best thing you can do for them."

CDC guidance recommends that if a mother is ill, she should continue breastfeeding and increase feeding frequency. Women can continue to breast feed while receiving anti-viral medications.