I'm coming down with a cold, and I have a 3 weeks old at home.

Would this be dangerous for him or is he protected because he's being breast fed? (I read somewhere that they have really good defenses when they breast feed)

asked 20 Oct '09, 18:04

JJJ's gravatar image

accept rate: 12%

If your wife was exposed to your cold, the antibodies that her body made to fight it off will be passed to your baby. So, yes, your baby is somewhat protected from your cold. I'd still be careful and wash your hands, etc.

Breastfed babies are protected against diseases via the mother passing antibodies to her baby:

"Breastfeeding has been shown to be protective against many illnesses, including painful ear infections, upper and lower respiratory ailments, allergies, intestinal disorders, colds, viruses, staph, strep and e coli infections, diabetes, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, many childhood cancers, meningitis, pneumonia, urinary tract infections, salmonella, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS) as well as lifetime protection from Crohn's Disease, ulcerative colitis, some lymphomas, insulin dependent diabetes, and for girls, breast and ovarian cancer." La Leche League International

Here is more information from Kellymom.com which has additional links in the footnotes of the article: Immune Factors in Human Milk


answered 20 Oct '09, 19:16

Sarah's gravatar image

accept rate: 40%

edited 21 Oct '09, 01:03


Just a note that this does not mean the baby is protected from colds in general: just that it has the same immunity as the mother.

(21 Oct '09, 00:26) Joel Coehoorn

That is correct, which is why I said that his wife will make antibodies if she has been exposed to his cold germs.

(21 Oct '09, 00:57) Sarah

Are breast-feeded babies immune to the common cold?

No, they aren't immune - but nursing babies will receive antibodies from their mother as long as mom's immune system recognizes the illness and produces the antibodies needed. They will both likely suffer some of the effects of the cold, but may not even notice it beyond a runnier-than-usual nose, or perhaps a little fussier.

Would this be dangerous for him or is he protected because he's being breast fed?

Whether its dangerous depends on many, many, many factors that one can't easily test for and control. Colds and flus are successful because they transfer so easily between humans, and due to this property about the only way to prevent them from getting your illness is to leave the home. This is likely impractical.

Keep in mind that for the common cold you are likely only contagious for 3-5 days after symptoms appear, and that the cold is transmitted via saliva and mucus. (source) During that period if you avoid physical contact with the baby, and leave the room when sneezing or coughing (as the particles may become airborne) then you put your baby and wife at lower risk of catching it.

However, he is not protected from catching it - he's protected when mom and he catch it. As long as mom gets it first, or at the same time, and her immune system reacts quickly, then not only may they both have fewer symptoms, but it will train his immune system so that the next time he's exposed, even if he's not nursing, his immune system will react more quickly and appropriately to the antigen.

While I don't believe one should intentionally infect their own child, I prefer not to change my interaction with my children when they or I am sick, and allow the illnesses to pass along. We aren't the kind of parents that will have our kids play with the kids with chicken pox, but we don't worry about illness - it is a fact of life.

Our first child never had any illness while nursing, but we were extra careful with him. Our latest child has 4 brothers that attend two different schools, and we've been hit really hard with illness this year. The baby has only had fairly minor symptoms of illness, even while we've had various flus, stomach flu, colds, and even strep throat (which is significant - if you believe you have strep throat please do what you can to AVOID infecting the baby!). So far he's only been sick when my wife was affected by an illness, and his illness has been significantly less severe than anyone else's in the house, including his mother.

However, make yourself aware of the serious symptoms and signs that require medical care. If you aren't aware of them, ask your health care professional what signs or symptoms require medical evaluation or immediate medical attention. Some of these signs are changes in behavior and eating habits, significant or persisting fever, persistent cough, wheezing, gasping, or difficulty breathing, etc.

Lastly - take extra good care of mom. The baby's health does depend on her health. Lots of fluids, good food, and rest can go a long way to protecting the baby when both mom and baby are not feeling well.


answered 19 Feb '10, 16:43

Adam%20Davis's gravatar image

Adam Davis
accept rate: 31%

edited 19 Feb '10, 19:56

Tammy's gravatar image

Tammy ♦♦

@Tammy - thanks for adding the reference!

(19 Feb '10, 20:49) Adam Davis

I would suggest that you avoid really close contact with your baby boy, whilst you have cold or flu symptons. I was told by my doctor that breast feeding would greatly increase my babys defense / immune system, against minor infections and common ailments because of the antibodies and proteins she would receive from my milk, as compared to babies who are fed formula.

Speaking from experience, during the first 6 months, my husband was ill a couple of times with flu, during those periods he was careful not to get too close to our baby, and when his symptoms disappeared, he resumed all his responsibilites.

We never had any problems, I didn't get the flu at all during the first 6 months, & the baby was breastfed solely for the first 6 months. In December when she became 6 months, ( just before Christmas ) it snowed, we were excited to show her, her first white christmas so we took a walk in the snow to a local cafe. ( She was in a baby carrier) When we sat down in the cafe we all had slightly red cheeks and noses that were runny, mine developed into a cold but my daughter was absolutely fine.


answered 20 Oct '09, 19:40

Emi's gravatar image

accept rate: 19%


I don't think you should avoid contact with your baby, your baby will receive antibodies from you.

(21 Oct '09, 13:29) Michelle

Did you read my answer correctly? I answered Juan, the father of the baby. I suggested that "He" should avoid close contact with the baby.

(21 Oct '09, 14:16) Emi

@ Michelle I would really like to know whether you misread my post, or is it really the case that the antibodies received will keep the baby totally immune and prevent him from catching a cold. Thanks

(22 Oct '09, 19:32) Emi

I think she misread the answer, as my baby isn't getting any antibodies from me =). @Emi, Michelle doesn't get a notification when you comment here, so unless she happens to come back and see this she won't answer

(22 Oct '09, 20:56) JJJ

:) thanks Juan! Hope u feel better soon too!

(22 Oct '09, 21:01) Emi
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Asked: 20 Oct '09, 18:04

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Last updated: 19 Feb '10, 19:56