Flu and cold season can be super obnoxious and awful unless you've gotten the flu shot, and you're immune to the virus. With the flu vaccination, you and your family are pretty likely to be immune to all the sniffling, coughing, and fever that comes along with the virus. But it's only normal to ask if it's OK for breastfeeding moms to get vaccinated for the flu. When you're breastfeeding there are lots of rules about what you can and cannot consume, so why would anyone want a dose of the flu, in the form of a vaccine, shot into them?
If even having an Olivia Pope-size glass of wine can mess up your entire feeding schedule, a shot should mean something, right? Wrong. Everyone should get a flu shot, especially breastfeeding mothers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, getting a flu shot while pregnant or feeding is the best way to keep yourself safe from the virus, which can be deadly if serious enough. Whatever flu symptoms might come from the flu shot — because it is possible that you will have an achey arm and possibly a fever after getting one — the effects of the actual flu virus on your body are way worse for you and your baby.
If a pregnant woman gets the flu, according to the CDC, it's more likely that they could go into premature labor or, in the worst cases, their fetus could have birth defects. Likewise, it's very possible that a breastfeeding mother could pass the flu onto their infant while feeding. So the best way to keep yourself safe, and ward off the flu from your infant, is to get a flu shot yourself.
Always ask your doctor about what's best, but it's likely that they, too, will recommend a flu shot. In adults, the flu isn't necessarily deadly. But in small infants and the elderly, it can be. Recently in Ohio, there have been four deaths because of flu-related symptoms. All of the victims were 6 and 7 years old.
In Ohio alone there have also been 2,100 people hospitalized for flu-related symptoms just this year. That's a lot, considering it's only February. Last year, for example, there were 3,400 people hospitalized in Ohio for the entire year. Not all of them were children, and you shouldn't be totally alarmed, but if you're on the fence about getting a flu shot — go now. The flu shot is still effective this late in the season and beyond, according to the CDC, so you have some time left. You can also put a reminder in place on your calendar for next year, just so you don't miss it.
An important side note for moms who may be worried still: According to the CDC, a flu shot "cannot cause flu illness." The most common side effects are manageable and include things like "soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given. Low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur."
The next time you visit your pediatrician, ask them about a flu shot and get one. Whether you're pregnant, breastfeeding, or thinking about conceiving again, it's the best, and simplest, way to ensure you and your child stay healthy. The flu is preventable. Take advantage of that fact when you can.