One of the things that I wanted to touch on was the assertion that breastfeeding will help protect your baby from the swine flu and that it is a valid alternative to the swine flu vaccine. On Ecochildsplay, the author states that "there are ways you can protect even the littlest members of your family, without giving them a vaccine."
She then says that "although the CDC recommends that most seemingly healthy people receive the vaccine, there are other ways to protects [sic] your babies." The article supports this argument by mentioning that the CDC states: "Breastfeed early and often. Limit formula feeds if you can. This will help protect your baby from infection."
The article goes on to say:
Yep. The Centers for Disease Control suggests breastmilk over formula to help protect your little ones against swine flu. No, breastmilk is no cure. But it may help boost baby’s immune system and make any illness a mild one.
I believe the author is inferring way too much here from the CDC's statement. I can't concur with the assumption that breastmilk will help make swine flu a mild illness. I do want to make clear the fact that I wholeheartedly agree that breastfeeding helps the child's immunity, but that is assuming that the mother has immune cells or immunity to the disease you are protecting them from.
Since this is a novel flu, one that no one (under the age of 60) has immunity for, breastfeeding won't help protect them specifically from the swine flu. In other words, unless the mother has been exposed or has come down with the swine flu and is breastfeeding, the breastfeeding child will not have any immunity.
The concept that breastfeeding in general helps boost the child's immune system is definitely accurate, but unfortunately, the CDC states that "infants are thought to be at higher risk for severe illness from novel influenza A (H1N1) infection and very little is known about prevention of novel H1N1 flu infection in infants. If you are breastfeeding or giving your baby infant formula, a cautious approach would be to protect your baby from exposure to the flu virus."
Further the CDC recommends that in order to protect your baby, if you have the flu, you should have someone else feed your infant your expressed milk in order to reduce the possibility of infecting your child. If you do not have help, then you should wear a facemask.
Since this is a new virus, we don’t know yet about specific protection against it. Mothers pass on protective antibodies to their baby during breastfeeding. Antibodies are a type of protein made by the immune system in the body. Antibodies help fight off infection.
If you are sick with flu and are breastfeeding, someone who is not sick can give your baby your expressed milk.
And, if you are wondering if I'm advocating that healthy children get the swine flu vaccine, you bet I am (there are "mercury free" shots available if that makes your hiney twinge). The vaccine should be no more risky than seasonal flu shots. And since children under 5 are considered a high risk group, wishful thinking is, frankly, more dangerous than the potential side effects of a vaccine.
So, definitely, keep up the breastfeeding, just know that it is no magic silver bullet here. If your child gets sick, monitor their symptoms and seek appropriate treatment according to your doctor's recommendations.
Are you planning on getting yourself and/or your children vaccinated when it becomes available?