Saturday, May 2, 2009

Breastfeeding in the wake of swine flu pandemic

With the swine flu outbreak, Health News Digest reports that breastfeeding is again being recommended to protect infants. The U.S. Breastfeeding Committee "recommends breastfeeding as a critical strategy to prevent infection," while the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognizes that non-breastfed infants are "are particularly vulnerable to infection and hospitalization for severe respiratory illness."

CDC even recommends that elimination of unnecessary formula supplementation, "so the infant can receive as much maternal antibodies as possible." The CDC also emphasized that breastfeeding should continue (with an increase in feeding frequency) if the mother is ill. Meanwhile, maternal illness which prevents safe feeding at the breast is not a reason to stop breastfeeding as the mom can still pump and she should be encouraged to do so.

However, the CDC recognizes that "the risk for swine influenza transmission through breast milk is unknown," although "reports of viremia with seasonal influenza infection are rare." In any case, according to the CDC, breastfeeding mothers who are taking antiviral medication treatment or prophylaxis may still continue.

Other practical tips on how to prevent the spread of germs include:
  1. Wash adults’ and infants’ hands frequently with soap and water, especially after infants place their hands in their mouths.
  2. Keep infants and mothers as close together as possible and encourage early and frequent skin-to-skin contact between mothers and their infants.
  3. Limit sharing of toys and other items that have been in infants' mouths. Wash thoroughly with soap and water any items that have been in infants' mouths.
  4. Keep pacifiers (including the pacifier ring/handle) and other items out of adults' or other infants' mouths prior to giving to the infant.
  5. Practice cough and sneeze etiquette.

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