What is influenza?
Influenza is a viral illness which infects the nose, throat and lungs. It is commonly referred to as the ‘flu’.
Can you still breastfeed if you have influenza?
Breastfeeding helps protect babies from a variety of illnesses including influenza. This is because breastmilk contains antibodies and other immune protective factors. If you have been diagnosed with or are suspected of having influenza, care should be taken to avoid spreading the virus to your baby while you continue to breastfeed (see below for more information). Influenza is not spread to babies via breastmilk. Rather, people infected with the flu can spread it to others via tiny germ droplets (eg when coughing or sneezing).
What if you are too unwell to breastfeed?
If you are too unwell to breastfeed your baby, another option is to express regularly so that your baby keeps receiving your breastmilk. Before expressing, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. If using a breast pump, it is important to ensure proper cleaning is followed. See our article Expressing and storing breastmilk.
Will my supply reduce if I have influenza?
Some mothers notice a supply drop when they are unwell. If this happens to you, you can call to speak to an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor for support, see a lactation consultant [or a medical advisor]. You may also find it helpful to read our article Increasing supply.
How can I reduce the risk of spreading the virus to my baby?
There are ways you can minimise the chances of spreading influenza to your baby. For example, it is important to wash and dry your hands well with soap and water before touching your baby or any object or surface that your baby touches as well as anytime you sneeze of cough into your hands.
For more information about avoiding spreading viruses see:
- The flu and you. Help stop the spread. Australian Government. Department of Health.
- Protect Against Flu: Caregivers of Infants and Young Children. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Emergencies preparedness, response. What can I do? World Health Organization.
Is there a way to prevent babies from getting influenza?
Immunisation reduces the risk of you and your baby getting influenza.
For more information see:
- Pregnant? You need a flu shot. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Vaccination for women who are planning pregnancy, pregnant or breastfeeding. Australian Government. Department of Health.
Are influenza antiviral prescription medications safe to use when breastfeeding?
For up-to-date information about the use of antiviral medications when breastfeeding, call one of numbers listed in our Breastfeeding and prescription medications article.
For more information about breastfeeding and other viruses see:
- Recommendations for breastfeeding during maternal infections. LamounierJA, Moulin ZS, Xavier CC.
- Maternal or Infant Illnesses or Conditions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For information about disease outbreaks refer to: Disease outbreaks. World Health Organization and follow links for specific information about breastfeeding.
© Australian Breastfeeding Association January 2020
The information on this website does not replace advice from your health care providers.