Can Nursing Moms Breastfeed When Sick? 5 Important Tips

Guided by the maternal instinct, a woman always tries to protect her baby. It is clear what to do when a person in your family or surroundings is sick. You try to keep your baby away from the obvious source of infection.

But what should a mother do if she is ill? The issue of breastfeeding arises at once. The mother is worried, as a rule, that she will pass the infection to her baby through breast milk. Should she continue breastfeeding or not?

If you come down with a cold, do not feel discouraged. The specialists assure that it is necessary to stop breastfeeding only in exceptional cases. Even when such a decision is taken, this period does not last long. However, there are diseases that require weaning to protect the baby’s health such as HIV or HTLV-1.

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Usually, common illnesses such as ordinary cold or fever are not the reasons for concern. Being under the weather, you should not refuse from breastfeeding.

Nevertheless, it is important to warn the doctor about the necessity to breastfeed to avoid the treatment with medications that should not be taken by a nursing mom. Though there are many medications that do not affect breastfeeding, there are some sorts of drugs that can harm your baby. The doctor should prescribe the treatment with this factor in mind.

It is recommended to breastfeed even when the food poisoning occurs. The specialists assure that the baby is not exposed to any risks in this case. If you experience stomach cramps, sickness, nausea and diarrhea due to food poisoning, the baby is still safe. All these symptoms are limited to the intestinal tract. It means that the bacteria will not get into breast milk.

There is an exception though. When the condition of a woman develops into septicemia (a clinical name for food poisoning), hospitalization is required. The doctor should decide upon the breastfeeding issue then.

The problem is that breast milk may also be infected with bacteria. A sick mother often continues to breastfeed even during this serious condition. The doctor may ask her to stop breastfeeding for a day – as long as the mother takes the treatment.

The sick person is contagious a day before the symptoms emerge. It means that the baby was exposed to a virus already and now needs good immunity to stay protected.

Why is breastfeeding the best solution even for a mom with a contagious disease?

Breastfeeding is the best immune system booster for your baby. If you stop breastfeeding, you can undermine the natural means of protection. Besides, the mother’s organism forms the antibodies to her illness, so the breast milk becomes the cure for the baby. Breast milk does not contain the infection but it includes the antibodies that help to fight the illness.

As you see, there is no sense in withholding breastfeeding if you are ill. Quite on the contrary, this makes the situation even more complicated. Being devoid of a common meal, the baby is under stress and feels uncomfortable.

Some specialists still stick to the opinion that breastfeeding should be done with caution or cut off altogether if the newborn is several days old. Such opinion was expressed, for instance, by Catherine Dundon, MD, an associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Children’s Hospital.

She says that a mother with a flu has to be kept away from the newborn after the labor. It should continue until the contagious period is over. As you see, everything depends on the particular circumstances that should be discussed with your doctor.  

What is the best way to protect the baby when you are ill?

  1. It is advised to follow the basic hygiene rules when you are sick and need to care for the baby. First of all, careful hand-washing is necessary to avoid the transmission of bacteria to the baby.
  2. If you cough or sneeze, it should not be done near the baby.
  3. Inform your doctor that you are a nursing mom to choose the right treatment.
  4. It is important to drink much fluid for a good milk supply. Sometimes the milk supply is reduced when you are ill.
  5. Resort to bottle feeding if you are afraid to hold the baby. Ask your partner or other family member for help. Pump the breast milk to nurse the baby.

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