Breastfeeding While Mom is Sick Is Safe? Safety Tips for Every Mom

Curious about breastfeeding while mom is sick will cause any issue? Learn if it’s safe, benefits, & precautions for both mom & baby.

Breastfeeding While Mom is Sick Is Safe
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Hey mamas! Let’s face it, motherhood is a beautiful mess. And let’s be honest, sometimes that mess includes a runny nose, a hacking cough, or worse, a full-blown illness. While feeling crummy is never fun, it can be downright panic-inducing when you’re breastfeeding. Can I still feed my baby? Will they get sick? Do I need to stop breastfeeding altogether? Deep breaths, mamas, because the good news is, breastfeeding while mom is sick is not only safe, but it can actually benefit your little one!

Myth Buster: Breastfeeding While Sick is Safe (For Most Cases)

First things first, let’s clear a major misconception: breastfeeding while mom is sick is generally safe for most common illnesses. In fact, it can be beneficial for your baby! Your amazing body produces antibodies to fight those nasty germs, and guess what? They get passed on to your little one through your breast milk, acting like a superhero shield against that same illness. It’s nature’s built-in immunity booster!

Also Read: 21 Common Breast Milk Myths and Misconceptions You Must Know

Breastfeeding While Mom is Sick Is Safe
Photo: breastfeeding.asn.au

But Wait, There’s More!

Breast milk is also packed with nutrients and hydration, which are crucial when your little one is feeling under the weather. It’s like a soothing, immune-boosting elixir, all rolled into one delicious cuddle session. Plus, the skin-to-skin contact during breastfeeding releases calming hormones for both you and your baby, promoting rest and recovery. So, snuggle up, mamas, you’re doing an amazing job!

So, when exactly is it safe to keep nursing?

The good news is, for most common illnesses like colds, flu, stomach bugs, and even mastitis (with certain precautions), breastfeeding is perfectly fine. However, it’s crucial to stay informed about specific situations where extra caution might be needed.

Special Cases: When to Consult Your Doctor

While most illnesses are A-OK for breastfeeding, there are a few exceptions:

  • Medications: Some medications can pass through breast milk, although most in very small amounts. Always consult your doctor before taking any medication while breastfeeding. They can advise you on safe options and potential concerns.
  • Serious Infections: If you have a serious infection requiring strong antibiotics or other potent medications, breastfeeding might need to be paused temporarily. Talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits in your specific case.
  • HIV/AIDS: If you’re HIV positive, formula feeding is recommended to protect your baby, with additional support and guidance available from healthcare professionals.

Pro-Tip: If you’re unsure about any medication, check the LactMed database for information on its compatibility with breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding While Mom is Sick Is Safe?
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Keeping Your Little One Safe While You Heal:

Even though breastfeeding while mom is sick is usually safe, here are some extra steps you can take to minimize any risk of spreading germs to your precious one:

  • Frequent Handwashing: This is a breastfeeding mama’s mantra, regardless of sickness! Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after every feeding, diaper change, and contact with your baby.
  • Mask Up: Consider wearing a mask while feeding or cuddling your baby, especially if you have a respiratory illness like a cold or flu.
  • Cough and Sneeze Etiquette: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow whenever you cough or sneeze, and dispose of the tissue immediately.
  • Extra Cuddles (Safely): While physical contact might be limited due to hygiene concerns, don’t underestimate the power of snuggles and skin-to-skin contact for both your well-being and your baby’s comfort.

Taking Care of Yourself: The Mama Matters Too!

Remember, mama, when you take care of yourself, you’re taking care of your baby too! Here are some self-care tips while you’re recovering:

Hygiene is Key: Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water before and after every feeding, and wear a mask if you have a cough or cold. This minimizes the risk of spreading any germs to your little one.

Pump it Up: If you’re too tired or weak to breastfeed directly, pumping and bottle-feeding your expressed milk is a great option. This way, your baby still receives the benefits of your milk, and you can rest and recuperate.

Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate: Feeling dehydrated can worsen your symptoms and decrease your milk supply. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids, like water, broth, or herbal tea (check with your doctor before consuming anything new while breastfeeding).

Medications with Caution: Some medications can pass through breast milk. Always consult with your doctor before taking any medication, and discuss breastfeeding with them to ensure the safest options for you and your baby.

Listen to Your Body: Don’t push yourself too hard. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, take breaks and ask for help. Delegate other tasks, get some extra rest, and remember, a happy and healthy mama is the best mama for her baby, even if that means taking a nap while your partner feeds your little one.

Burnout From Exclusive Pumping
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Bonus Tip: Pumping to the Rescue!

If you’re feeling too unwell to breastfeed directly, or need a break for self-care, pumping is a great way to keep your milk supply going and provide your baby with your precious breast milk. Remember to follow proper hygiene practices when handling pump parts and expressed milk.

Common Illnesses and Breastfeeding:

Let’s delve into some specific illnesses and how they affect breastfeeding:

  • Cold/Flu: Breastfeed away! Your milk is full of antibodies to fight off the virus and protect your baby.
  • Fever: A fever itself doesn’t pose a risk to breastfeeding. However, if your fever is high or caused by a specific illness, consult your doctor.
  • Mastitis: This painful breast infection can be treated with antibiotics compatible with breastfeeding. Your doctor will advise you on the best course of action.
  • Stomach flu: While it’s safe to breastfeed, you might need to monitor your baby for signs of dehydration and consult your doctor if needed.
Common Breastfeeding Illnesses
Photo: Photo: verywellfamily.com

The Bottom Line

Remember, mama, you are strong and capable! Being sick while breastfeeding can be challenging, but by following these tips and trusting your instincts, you can continue to nourish your little one and prioritize your own well-being though breastfeeding while mom is sick is completely safe. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your healthcare provider or lactation consultant for personalized guidance and support. You got this!

Disclaimer: This information is for educational purposes only and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare professional for any questions or concerns you may have.

Additional Resources:

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Does mom being sick affect breast milk?

If you have the flu, you can continue breastfeeding your baby, even if you take antiviral medicines for flu-like symptoms. Breast milk is tailored for babies, giving them antibodies they need to fight infection. So, continuing to breastfeed can shield your baby from the infection that your body is battling.

Q. Should I stay away from my baby if I have a cold?

The most effective way to prevent catching the common cold is through common-sense precautions and regular hand-washing. Keep your baby away from anyone who is sick. If you have a newborn, avoid visits from anyone who is sick.

Q. Can I breastfeed if I take paracetamol?

You can safely take regular doses of acetaminophen (one or two 500mg tablets every 4 hours, up to 4 times within a 24-hour period with a maximum of 8 tablets in 24 hours) while breastfeeding. Acetaminophen is a preferred pain reliever during breastfeeding, as it transfers to breast milk in minimal amounts.

Q. How can I fight a cold while breastfeeding?

Congestion: A warm shower or bath, saline (saltwater) nasal spray, and lots of warm fluids can help relieve congestion.
Cough: Warm water with lemon and honey can help soothe a cough in the nursing parent.
Sore throat: Gargling with warm salt water is a safe way to ease a sore throat.

Q. Can I kiss my baby if I’m sick?

RSV can spread through kissing, sharing drinks, or mouth-to-mouth contact. Washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes, and avoiding contact when sick reduces spread and protects our youngest family members.

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Top Image: parentinghub.co.za

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