Breastfeeding When You're Sick

Can You Breastfeed When Sick?

As a new mother, wanting the very best for your newborn is of utmost importance. You will go to the ends of the earth and back for that tiny person and there is no way on earth you would do anything to jeopardize your baby's health or welfare. You're a MOM.

Perhaps one of the most basic and important questions you have regarding your baby's health and wellness relates to breastfeeding. The question is: Is it safe to breastfeed my baby when I'm sick? And, what is the effect of medications on breastfeeding?

It is not only a very valid question and concern, it's an important question. Although we will address it here in this article, we do suggest that any concerns that are gnawing at you be taken directly to your caregiver for a face-to-face medical response.

Will My Baby Get Sick?

Many moms, particularly new moms, are worried that if they get sick their breast milk will be negatively affected. They ask: Will my baby get sick because I passed the illness on through nursing? The answer to that question is: Generally speaking, sick or not, the preferred method of feeding your baby continues to be breastfeeding. We'll explain.

If you become ill with almost any of the more common illnesses, like a cold or the flu, breastfeeding while you are sick is still safe and the best way to feed your baby. Whether you breastfeed or not, your baby is going to be exposed to your illness. But, your body creates antibodies to the illness when you are sick and you pass these antibodies along to your baby when you breastfeed. The upshot is that if the baby gets sick at all, it will likely be a much milder version of what you and anyone else in the house got. It's really not the sickness that is the big issue for nursing moms - it's the medications that are prescribed (or purchased over-the-counter) that can be the problem. If your illness is extremely serious, like an STD, HIV/AIDS or hepatitis, then it is important to discuss breastfeeding before the baby is born.

Usually, illness is transmitted through skin contact and secretions from the mouth and nose. Wash your hands often, avoid as much as possible face-to-face contact, and don't sneeze or cough directly onto your baby.

Advantages to Nursing When Ill

Actually, when you think about it, nursing when you're not well makes it a lot easier to get some much needed rest. You just tuck the baby into bed with you, nurse, and then have someone take the baby, burp, change, and put him to bed. Unless you are devastatingly ill, weaning is not a good idea, especially if you are sick. There are several factors that enter into the equation: the risk of mastitis and/or engorgement and the emotional trauma to both you and your baby that results from sudden weaning. The sickness won't last forever - hang in there.

Different Illnesses and What to Do

Be sure to drink lots of liquids when you're ill - especially if you have a fever. Dehydration will limit your milk supply very quickly. Staying well hydrated helps to keep the milk flowing. One of the biggest concerns for moms who are nursing is the effect of fever on breastfeeding. The important factor here is that you call your healthcare provider if you've developed a fever in the first few weeks after giving birth. It could signal an infection or complication that resulted from the birth. Otherwise, taking ibuprophen or acetaminophen to deal with fever is totally fine.

Vomiting and diarrhea can also cause dehydration if they get out of control. The most important thing for you, as a nursing mother, is to avoid dehydradtion - it will definitely affect your milk supply. If you are vomiting or have diarrhea that is uncontrollable, get in touch with your caregiver right away.

Coughing is common, especially if you have a cold or the flu. Even though these illnesses are highly contagious, it is no reason to stop nursing. Don't cough on the baby if you can help it (nursing or not), and talk to your healthcare provider about any medications you are going to take.

What About Medications?

Every over-the-counter drug that is sold in the US (and most other countries) comes with a pamphlet outlining every single contraindication that can possibly be thought of - whether it has been documented or not. The pharmaceutical companies are definitely in the business of educating, especially since a law suit can be a costly endeavor. If an OTC has been approved for nursing mothers, you can be well assured it has been rigorously tested and is, indeed, safe.

Remember how important breastfeeding is to you and your baby. Don't lose sight of that aspect and, even if you have to wean your baby for a short time, you can resume breastfeeding. If your caregiver isn't onside with you - find one who is.

There are some incredible aspects to breast milk we bet you haven't ever thought of ... check them out here.

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