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Thread: More questions about breastfeeding and colds

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    Default More questions about breastfeeding and colds

    So after reading an earlier post, I understand that mom passes antibodies. Does that only happen if mom gets sick? Or are they antibodies from previous exposure? Someone told me that because I've been a teacher, I'll pass on lots of antibodies. Is this so?

    Secondly, how much do you keep yor babies away from sick people? With get together a for holidays approaching, the new mom in me wants to protect fiercely. And handwashing? At what age do you stop making a big deal with it? My son just turned 5 months and I've always been a handwasher since I'm a teacher. But my husband isn't. he's starting to remember to wash his hands as soon as he gets home. And since baby is teething, we have lots of hand to mouth.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    212

    Default Re: More questions about breastfeeding and colds

    1) Both. Your body has lingering antibodies from every invader it has ever fought (just about) hanging around in relatively low amounts. When your body sees that same bug again, it can make new copies of that antibody instead of having to figure it out from scratch again. When you are actively fighting something--something new or something you've seen before--your body cranks up the production of the relevant antibodies b/c they're the ones that are needed to kill off the current issue. When it is cleared from your system, your body will keep just a few of those antibodies to be ready for next time. Breastmilk is a blood product and carries all the antibodies to baby. So you're helping your baby fight whatever is a current threat as well as passing them the "codes" to fight stuff that's not currently a problem.

    2) Depends a lot on the age. Before 3 months, fever means automatic ER trip and admission to the hospital. In our house that's the super-sterile period. After 3 months your baby is a bit more equipped to fight and has a few more reserves, so you can gradually relax a bit. By the time baby is big enough to find dirt to put in her own mouth, I'm pretty relaxed about it. I wouldn't avoid normal family gatherings with a 5 month old, but I might not let the aunt with the hacking cough hold her. I would not let the three-year-old with the green snot get in her face. I would not take her to visit someone with a serious or exotic illness. The thing is that some exposure (especially while getting the immune boost of BF) helps their systems develop to fight stuff throughout life.

    For handwashing, I would say we're careful but not obsessive. We absolutely wash at normal hygiene times (before eating, after bathroom, after diaper changes, after doing anything particularly icky) and I try to wash at other times when I think about it (especially with someone chewing on my hands.) If you establish certain habits like washing when you get home and the other key times, then you can get by with no really worrying about it. After 3 months. Before 3 months, I wash every time I think of it. Then I wash again. My older son greeted people at the door with a bottle of hand sanitizer.

    Have fun and enjoy your family. In my opinion it is more important for an otherwise healthy baby to be exposed to people who love him than to avoid their germs.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
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    297

    Default Re: More questions about breastfeeding and colds

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*lehall View Post
    2) Depends a lot on the age. Before 3 months, fever means automatic ER trip and admission to the hospital. In our house that's the super-sterile period. After 3 months your baby is a bit more equipped to fight and has a few more reserves, so you can gradually relax a bit.
    I completely agree! My baby developed a fever at 6 weeks old that earned us a visit to the ER. She wasn't admitted, although they did seem on the fence about admitting her and said that if we were worried about caring for her at home, they would admit her. She got a spinal tap, catheterization for urine specimen collection, lots of pokes, shots of antibiotics, the whole thing. In the end, it turned out to be nothing, but the problem is they don't know at that age, and they have to be conservative because a fever can just as easily indicate a life-threatening illness. It was horrible.

    In retrospect, there is probably nothing we could have done to prevent that episode, BUT the biggest lesson I learned from that experience is that you keep newborns away from germs not JUST to keep them from getting something serious, but also to keep them from getting something benign, because even benign infections can land you in the emergency room, and that is MISERABLE.

    I also lightened up a lot about germs after my baby had had a couple of rounds of shots by 4 months. Before they are vaccinated, most run-of-the-mill viruses are highly unpleasant but not the end of the world, but they are pretty susceptible to things like pertussis and measles (even breastfed babies are not completely immune), which are rare but can be very very serious.
    Last edited by @llli*sprocket; November 19th, 2012 at 10:27 AM.

  4. #4
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    Jun 2012
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    Austin, TX
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    Default Re: More questions about breastfeeding and colds

    I also read that if baby contracts the illness first, before mom, that your body starts making antibodies *in the breast* and passing them back to baby, even before you become symptomatic. Breastmilk is miraculous!

    As for the handwashing, my in-laws are so annoying about this. They grab at the baby the second they walk in the door. Even though LO is 6 mos, it's still no fun for us when he catches a cold! I try to politely ask them to wash their hands first, or I carry a small purell in the diaper bag for that purpose ... but I don't always get the chance to cut them off at the pass, so then I just shrug it off and put my faith in the miraculous breastmilk

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
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    Northern Cal.
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    Default Re: More questions about breastfeeding and colds

    Yes, I have heard that we make antibodies to any illness we are exposed to, pretty much from the time of exposure. So if your baby gets sick (from someone else), you'll be exposed and start making antibodies right away, even if you never actually get sick yourself. Which is freaking MAGIC, right? (Okay, okay, not actually magic. Reality! Even better!)

    P.S. I tried to keep Maggie away from sickness during her newborn period but she caught her first cold from her brother at 2 weeks old. That sucked! But she was fine. After the newborn phase, though, I don't worry. I wash my hands, but no more than I would otherwise (before handling food, after using the restroom). Studies show that children that are raised in very clean environments with less germs tend to have worse allergies and may get sick MORE.
    Last edited by @llli*joe.s.mom; November 19th, 2012 at 04:27 PM.


    You can call me JoMo!

    Mom to baby boy Joe, born 5/4/09 and breastfed for more than two and a half years, and baby girl Maggie, born 7/9/12.

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