Breastfeeding When You are Sick

In the winter months when colds, coughs, sore throats and the flu are prevalent, moms often wonder about breastfeeding when you are sick. Is it safe for your baby? Will your baby automatically get what you have? What if you’re taking medication? We’re answering all of these questions today as we discuss breastfeeding when you are sick.

Is breastfeeding when you are sick safe for your baby?

It is almost always safe to breastfeed when you are sick. If you have a common seasonal illness like the flu, a cold or strep throat, breastfeeding can continue without harming your baby. In these cases you are not passing on the cause of your sickness through breast milk. Chances are you were contagious even before you showed symptoms so even avoiding close proximity wouldn’t do much good once you know you are sick. In developing countries it is only rare diseases that are transferred through bodily fluids like breast milk.

Breastfeeding when you are SickHow can breastfeeding prevent your baby from getting sick?

When you are sick your body is working hard to fight off whatever is ailing you. You produce antibodies as a counterattack. As you breastfeed you are giving your baby the exact antibodies necessary to defend him against the illness you have. So even if your baby does get a touch of what you have, his body will be in great position to get rid of it quickly. Often babies don’t get illnesses as bad as their mothers for this reason.

Additionally, if your baby does get sick, breastfeeding will provide excellent nutrition to “nurse” him back to health. And of course you can’t forget the value of your comfort when helping your baby feel better.

Is it safe to take medication when you are breastfeeding?

Most medications aimed at resolving common illnesses are safe during breastfeeding or a similar breastfeeding-friendly alternative is available. Talk to your pediatrician before taking any over-the-counter medications to ensure they are safe for your baby. If you need a prescription drug such as antibiotics, remind your doctor that you need a medication compatible with breastfeeding.

What are some side effects of medications for your baby?

Only a small amount of your medication is transferred to your baby during breastfeeding so side-effects are usually minimal. Some medications may cause digestive irritation or a rash on your baby.  If you notice a severe reaction in your baby, discontinue use of the medication and call your pediatrician immediately.

How do medications affect your milk supply?

Certain types of medications such as antihistamines can decrease your milk supply. Their purpose is to dry up your congestion but they can suck the moisture out of other areas of your body too. If you must take a drug that is known to decrease milk supply, increase your water intake significantly and nurse more often to try to combat this breastfeeding problem.

What else can you do to prevent your baby from getting sick?

Use traditional methods to avoid spreading germs including: washing hands often, wiping down toys, don’t share food or utensils, cough or sneeze into a sleeve or tissue, and try not to breathe too much in your baby’s face.

Breastfeeding when you are sick can be challenging, especially if you feel weak, nauseous, are in pain or have trouble breathing. However, your baby’s best defense against getting sick is your amazing breast milk. Do your best to push through your sickness to keep your baby healthy and strong.

Sources: KellyMom and BabyCenter