How nursing mothers can navigate through this flu season

St. Joseph's/Candler Emergency Room's have seen a spike of 20 percent from last year in visits due to flu related cases (Credit:Robert Catanese)

This flu season has hit the Coastal Empire and Low Country particularly hard.

In both South Carolina and Georgia there continues to be ‘widespread’ coverage with South Carolina noting 518 influenza-associated hospitalizations that were reported by 49 hospitals. In Georgia, there have been 1,027 hospitalizations due to influenza so far this season, with eight Chatham County deaths related to the flu so far this season. There have also been two in Glynn county and one in Effingham county.

Expecting and nursing mothers are not immune to the virus and babies are extremely susceptible in getting the flu.

Delphine De Mauro is a Lactation Specialist at St. Joseph’s/Candler Hospital.

“It has been kind of a record breaking flu season,” said De Mauro.

Doctors say immune compromised individuals are at the greatest risk of getting the flu.

“The very young or the very old or the very fragile and certainly our babies fall in to that category,” said De Mauro.

If nursing mothers get sick, De Mauro says not to worry about how it will affect the baby. “She should still keep breast feeding because she is actually making antibodies for the very disease she has while she has it,” she said.

She says breast milk is safe even if mom has the flu.

“She cannot give the baby the flu through her milk. She can only give baby antibodies to fight the flu,” she said.

She also says those antibodies can have a lifelong impact on your baby’s health.

“We believe, based on research, that some of those antibodies can protect children from getting other diseases later in life like diabetes, maybe even certain forms of childhood cancer,” said De Mauro.

She says breastfeeding is an investment moms make in their child's future.

“Feeding that moms are doing now in the days and weeks and months after birth really have long lasting effects on the health of their children,” she said.

If you’re a nursing mom and you get the flu, you need to be careful. Doctors say there are medicines you can and cannot take.

Tamiflu, Tylenol, Advil or Motrin are all safe for comfort relief, but you may want to stay away from the following:

“Drying agents, Sudafed, things like Benadryl can really dry you out, so just like they dry our your sinuses and all the mess that you have for the flu they can also dry out moms milk supply,” said De Mauro.