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How to Protect Your Newborn from the Flu

Newborn Flu

The following is a guest blog post written by UAB Medicine's very own Kimberly Scott, MSN, RN, CPNP-PC, IBCLC, LSSGB
Interim Nurse Manager, Mother-Baby Unit, Newborn Nursery, Lactation Services

As a parent, it’s important to know how to protect your baby from the flu. Infants cannot get the flu shot until they are six months old, so they need extra protection during the first six months of life. Babies under two months old are the most vulnerable.

The flu spreads easily through the air when someone with the virus sneezes, coughs, or speaks, so mothers need to take special precautions with their infants. UAB Medicine’s Women & Infants Center encourages you to follow the advice below to reduce your newborn’s risk during his or her first flu season:

  1. Ensure that all caregivers, household members, and others who will have contact with your baby have received the flu shot. This is especially important for other children in the home. If you were pregnant during flu season, you may have received the flu shot during pregnancy. Mothers who receive the flu shot during pregnancy pass on extra protection to their babies in their first few months of life. Now that your baby is born, it’s recommended to get your flu shot as soon as possible each flu season.
  2. Limit exposure to large crowds during the first two months of life. As exciting as it is to show off your new baby, it’s a good idea to avoid places where there’s a greater risk of being exposed to the flu. These include malls, grocery stores, restaurants, and other public places. It’s still important to have “mom time,” though, so leave your baby with a healthy caregiver when you need to leave the house. Even after the first two months of life, it’s still a good idea to keep your baby in a car seat or stroller when out in public. A thin, breathable blanket can be draped over the top of the car seat or stroller to prevent strangers from getting too close or touching your baby.
  3. Breastfeed if possible. If you are able to breastfeed your baby, it’s another great way to give your baby some extra protection. The antibodies in breast milk are passed along to your baby and help protect against common infections and viruses. Exclusively breastfeeding during the first six months of life provides your baby with the greatest protection. Even if you develop flu-like symptoms, you can continue to breastfeed. This provides your baby with antibodies that help fight the infection and may prevent your baby from getting sick. Contact your health care provider and your baby’s pediatrician as soon as you develop flu symptoms, since an antiviral medication may be needed for both of you. Antiviral medications to treat the flu are safe to take while breastfeeding. If you are not feeling well enough to breastfeed or prefer not to, you can pump your breast milk and have a healthy caregiver feed your baby.
  4. Practice good hygiene. Frequent hand-washing is the first line of defense in protecting your baby from illness – not just for you, but also for anyone who comes into contact with your baby. Don’t be afraid to speak up and ask visitors to wash their hands. It’s good to have hand sanitizer available when washing your hands with soap and water is not an option. Keep a bottle of it in your diaper bag for when you are on the go. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, immediately dispose of the tissue, then wash your hands. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, you should avoid face-to-face contact with your baby and consider wearing a facemask when breastfeeding during the first two months of life to avoid sneezing or coughing on your baby.
  5. Know when to call your baby’s doctor. Call your baby’s pediatrician if you develop flu-like symptoms or if your baby does. It’s important to call as soon as you notice any symptoms. Do not give your baby any medications unless your baby’s doctor tells you to do so. Follow up with the pediatrician for any of the flu symptoms that are common in babies, which include fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, cough, runny or stuffy nose, fussiness, vomiting, diarrhea, and increased sleepiness.

 

Click here to learn more about Women & Infants Services at UAB Medicine.