In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, I thought I’d debunk a popular myth regarding breastfeeding…
Many women believe that if they have a cold or the flu, they should not breastfeed their baby. This is not true–the only maternal illness that is a contraindication to breastfeeding is HIV. Breast milk contains immune properties such as secretory IgA, which helps the baby to fight off infections. In addition to this, when a mother is exposed to, or has a viral or bacterial infection, her body reacts by producing specific antibodies in her blood. These antibodies help to fight off the infection in the mother. Similar antibodies will be produced in her breast milk to help fight off that specific infection in the baby. In reality, it is even more important to breastfeed when you are sick with a cold or the flu, in order to help your baby fight off infection.
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Maternal Antibodies in Breast Milk Protect the Child from Enterovirus Infections. Pediatrics, 2007 May: 119(5). 941-6.
Chirico G., Marzollo R., Cortinovis S., Fonte C., and Gasparoni A. Anti-infective Properties of Human Milk. J Nutrition 2008: 138(9): 1801-1806S.