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Breastfeeding in Pools & Hot Tubs/Spas

Mother holding baby by the side of the swimming pool

Is breastfeeding in the pool or hot tub/spa healthy and safe for my baby?


Breastfeeding is one of the most important steps mothers can take to promote a baby’s well-being and is recommended by the Surgeon General 1.

If you are considering breastfeeding your baby in the pool or hot tub/spa, keep in mind that breastfeeding in the water is different from breastfeeding poolside or in other settings. In pools or hot tubs/spas, your baby might be exposed to germs in the water and water temperatures that might be too different from your baby’s normal body temperature. No scientific study has looked at the health and safety of breastfeeding babies while in pools or hot tubs/spas. However, potential health and safety concerns for your baby are discussed in more detail below. CDC is not aware of any risks to other swimmers related to breastfeeding in pools or hot tubs/spas.

Potential Risks of Breastfeeding Babies in Pools or Hot Tubs/Spas

Risk of swallowing water

We share the water in pools and hot tubs/spas — and the germs in the water — with others. This means that if a swimmer has a fecal (poop) incident in the water 2, the water becomes contaminated with feces and germs. Swallowing contaminated water can cause recreational water illnesses (RWIs), such as diarrhea 3 and viral meningitis 4. It is important to remember chlorine and other pool disinfectants do not kill germs instantly, and not all pools and hot tubs/spas have a proper disinfectant level 5, 6. Your baby's immune system is not as developed as an older sibling's or a parent's, so decreasing your baby's risk of infection is very important 7.

Swallowing larger volumes of water while in the pool can cause hyponatremia. This is a condition where body fluids do not contain enough sodium (or salt), which can result in seizures.

Risk of contact with water

Babies cannot control their body temperature as effectively as their older siblings and parents. This is because babies have a small body mass compared to body surface area. Being in water even a few degrees different from normal body temperature (98.6°F/37°C) can affect your baby’s body temperature. Being in cool or cold water can cause hypothermia, a dangerously low body temperature. Being in very warm or hot water found in hot tubs/spas can cause hyperthermia, a dangerously high body temperature.

References
  1. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Surgeon General’s call to action to support breastfeeding. [PDF - 100 pages] Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General; 2011.
  2. CDC. Prevalence of parasites in fecal material from chlorinated swimming pools — United States, 1999. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2001;50(20):410–2.
  3. Hlavsa MC, Roberts VA, Anderson AR, Hill VR, Kahler AM, Orr M, Garrison LE, Hicks LA, Newton A, Hilborn ED, Wade TJ, Beach MJ, Yoder JS. Surveillance for waterborne disease outbreaks and other health events associated with recreational water — United States, 2007–2008 [PDF - 80 pages]. Morb Mortal Wkly Rep Surveill Summ 2011;60(12):1–37.
  4. CDC. Aseptic meningitis outbreak associated with Echovirus 9 among recreational vehicle campers — Connecticut, 2003. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2004;53(31);710–13.
  5. CDC. Violations identified from routine swimming pool inspections — selected states and counties, United States, 2008. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2010;59(19);582–87.
  6. CDC. Surveillance data from public spa inspections — United States, May–September 2002. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2004;53(25);553–55.
  7. Ygberg S, Nilsson A. The developing immune system — from foetus to toddler. Acta Paediatr. 2012;101:120–7.
 
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