Whether it’s because you’re struggling to juggle care for your baby and taking good care of yourself, or simply because it seems everyone is sneezing and sniffling, sooner or later you’re bound to find yourself feeling under the weather. There’s never a good time to get sick, but it can be especially annoying when you’re still nursing your little one. Can you keep breastfeeding while sick? And what about taking medication?
With so many illnesses out there, it’s impossible to give a simple yes or no answer to the question ‘Can I still breastfeed when I’m sick?' Luckily, though, with most common illnesses the answer is a resounding yes.
If you’re a breastfeeding mother suffering from the flu, a cold, diarrhea, fever or vomiting, you can continue nursing without worrying about passing anything on to your baby. Even though you’re feeling unwell, your breast milk won’t make them sick. Quite the opposite, in fact: your breast milk will contain antibodies that actually help prevent your baby getting sick. That means that, contrary to what you might think, breastfeeding when sick is often a good idea. (Taking medication? Then things might be more complicated. We explain more later on in this blog.)
Unfortunately, there are a number of serious illnesses, such as HIV, chickenpox and herpes simplex that can be transmitted to your child when nursing. If you have any questions about your health and the impact an illness has on your nursing child, always consult your doctor.
What about if you’re dealing with an infection of your breast? Good hygiene is always important, but particularly with young children — so is it a good idea to continue nursing if you have mastitis?
In a word: definitely. Nursing while you have mastitis does not affect your baby. Not only that, when you have mastitis, it’s important to keep the milk moving in and out of your milk ducts. Continuing to nurse using the infected breast might be the last thing you feel like doing, but it’s better for you in the long run. It will help you recover and the antibodies in the milk will help keep your baby healthy.
With so many different types of medication available, this question doesn’t have a definitive yes or no answer. However, the good news is that many common medications such as paracetamol and ibuprofen can be used in low dosage for a short period of time while nursing. Some antibiotics are safe to take if you’re breastfeeding — but not all! Always consult your physician or pharmacist, and make sure they know you are breastfeeding.
Something to keep in mind is that almost all drugs present in your blood will be passed on into your breast milk, to some extent. That might sound worrying, but the levels are usually so low that they do not pose a risk to you child. However, there are circumstances where the drugs can become more concentrated in your breast milk. Also, younger or sick babies are at more risk. If you’re unsure whether you should continue breastfeeding, consult your doctor.
As we’ve discussed above, some medications and illnesses will require you to (temporarily) stop nursing. This might not be ideal, but it doesn’t have to have a negative effect on your breast milk supply. Using a breast milk pump will help you maintain your milk supply while you take a break from nursing.
Unfortunately, being sick may affect your breast milk supply. This could be caused by the illness itself, as is the case with mastitis, but the culprit could also be the medication you take to recover. Either way, you may notice your supply dip a little when you’re feeling ill.
This is all the more reason to keep breastfeeding while you’re sick, even if it’s the last thing you feel like doing. Regularly breastfeeding or expressing milk is a great way to increase your breast milk supply, as is eating well and staying hydrated. And don’t worry: once you’re feeling better, you should see your milk supply return to its old levels.
Being sick doesn’t have to get in the way of breastfeeding, but it certainly doesn’t make it any easier. It’s important to practice good self-care in order to keep yourself healthy and happy. Although a healthy diet and regular exercise isn’t always easy to combine with taking care of a nursing baby.
If you feel like you (and your milk supply) could use a little helping hand now and then, a dietary supplement might be right for you. We developed Multi-Mam LactaShake, a protein-rich, vegetarian shake, to help nursing mothers provide the best possible start for their nursing children. It gives your immune system a little extra support in a time when it can be hard to make your own wellbeing a priority.
Visit the Multi-Mam LactaShake page to find out if it’s right for you