Flu Vaccines

By Martha Peelor, RN, IBCLC

If you have ever had the flu, you probably remember it well and don’t wish to repeat the experience. Fever, chills, body aches, headache, cough, stomach distress….it can be a real week or so of misery.

For some, especially the elderly and the very young, it can be more than that; the flu can be fatal. You can greatly reduce your risk of getting the flu by receiving the flu vaccine each year; after a year, vaccine –induced immunity wanes. The strains of flu which are included in the vaccine change from year to year as well, depending on the world wide circulating strains.

As flu season kicks into high gear, you may wonder if the flu vaccine is safe to get while nursing. If you have a new baby, not only is it safe, but the AAP, the CDC and the Breastfeeding Center of Pittsburgh strongly urge you to consider the flu vaccine as a way to protect your baby as well as yourself. Babies younger than 6 months of age are not old enough to receive the flu vaccine. Surrounding the baby with vaccinated caregivers is one way to reduce the baby’s risk of getting this disease. In addition, transfer of vaccination-related antibodies by breastfeeding further reduces the infant’s chances of getting sick with the flu.

There are 2 forms of flu vaccine, Fluzone (injectable) and Flumist (nasal). Fluzone is an inactivated vaccine and Flumist is a live, attenuated (changed) vaccine. Either one can be received by a breastfeeding mom as long as mom meets the other criteria for each vaccine. For both types of vaccine this means no egg allergy, no allergy to any of the components of the vaccine and no previousadverse response to the flu vaccine. In addition, Flumist is restricted to healthy people from 2 – 49 years old, with no history of chronic medical conditions such as asthma or diabetes, and nohousehold or health care contact with persons who are severely immune-compromised.

For more information, see the CDC Flu Vaccine web page.

Martha Peelor, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, was a long-time member of our staff.