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Is it Safe to Breastfeed if I Have the Flu?

I've been having flu-like symptoms lately, and I might have the flu. Is it safe to continue breastfeeding my baby?
- Stacey

Yes, you can continue to breastfeed your baby, even if you are taking antiviral medicines for flu-like symptoms. A mother's breast milk is custom-made for her baby, providing specific antibodies that babies need to fight infection. So, continuing to breastfeed your baby can actually protect him or her from the infection that your body is fighting.

While you're sick, however, it's important to expose your baby to as few germs as possible. Babies are at higher risk of catching the flu and having health problems from it. So follow flu hygiene precautions, such as washing your hands often, coughing or sneezing into a tissue (and then throwing it away), and limiting close face-to-face contact with your baby. You might consider wearing a facemask during breastfeeding to avoid coughing, sneezing, or breathing directly into your baby's face.

If you're worried about your baby's risk or are too sick to breastfeed, pump your breast milk and have someone who is not sick feed your baby the expressed milk.

Contact the doctor if your baby develops any flu-like symptoms.

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: September 2013