DALLAS, Dec. 1 (UPI) -- There are things parents can do to help protect their babies from H1N1 influenza, which may be a threat again this flu season, a U.S. researcher says.
Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, says that while little is known about preventing H1N1 in infants, following everyday precautions such as washing hands with soap and water before handling a baby is always a good idea. Breastfeeding is also protective.
Infants must be at least 6 months old before getting a flu shot, Kahn says.
"It's well-documented that babies who aren't breastfed get sick from infections like the flu more often and more severely than breastfed babies," Kahn says in a statement. "That's because breast milk is custom-made to fight diseases that both a mother and her baby are exposed to."
Kahn says a mother who is healthy shouldn't stop breastfeeding a child who is sick, but a mother who comes down with the flu should consider expressing her breast milk for bottle feedings so some of her immunity continues to pass on to the infant.
"This way, the baby reaps all the advantages of the breast milk without being exposed to the additional germs mom may be carrying around," Kahn says.