Being a mom isn’t easy—don’t let anyone tell you otherwise! It is a full-time job that gives you no sick time or vacation days. You can’t call out sick when you’re feeling worse for wear. The good news is that coming down with the sniffles and a fever is not going to upset your daily routine. If you are breastfeeding with a cold, you don’t have to worry, because the common virus can’t pass into breastmilk.
Here is everything you need to know about breastfeeding when you have a fever or are sick, including tips to help you feel better and over-the-counter medicines.
Can I Breastfeed When Sick?
Yes, you can breastfeed when you have a fever or are sick with the common cold. It is a known fact that breastfeeding can increase your speed of recovery and even makes your baby more resistant to illnesses. Breastmilk, after all, contains white blood cells, antibodies, stem cells, and enzymes that accelerate healing and fight infection. So, if you have a cold or flu, continuing on with breastfeeding actually protects your baby.
That said, breastfeeding when you are sick can be exhausting. Look after yourself. Get plenty of rest. Stay hydrated and eat well. You will also need extra rest. This can be done by curling up on the sofa or bed with your baby and a book. If you need a few days to yourself, as a caregiver, such as family or friends, to look after your little one. Don’t stop pumping during this time to prevent mastitis and diminished milk supply.
What If My Baby Is Unwell?
Breastmilk can provide a baby with so much more than nourishment, as mentioned above. When both you and your baby are under the weather, the last thing you want to do is stop breastfeeding. It has been found that the composition of breastmilk changes in accordance to your baby’s health. For example, if you recently came down with an infection (bacterial or viral), your body will produce antibodies that are then passed through the breastmilk to your baby to help them combat the same illness.
Since breastmilk is highly digestible, babies with upset tummies do better on it than other forms of nourishment.
But what happens when your baby is truly ill and doesn’t want to feed? Anytime you struggle with getting a baby to breastfeed, contact a lactation consultant or a medical professional. The longer your baby goes without food, the greater the risk of dehydration. You can also try expressing milk to try feeding the baby with a syringe or cup or another method that requires little effort.
Tips For Handling Specific Symptoms
As mentioned earlier, you will need to rest as much as you possibly can when you are sick, have a fever, or are battling the flu. You need to give your immune system time to rid your body of the virus.
Here are some home remedies that can speed up the process:
- Get more zinc. Known for boosting immunity, zinc is found in foods like yogurt, oatmeal, oysters, beef, pork, turkey, and wheat germ.
- Try some vitamin C. Another immunity-booster, vitamin C is contained in citrus fruits, including oranges, kiwi, mango, and melon. You can also get it from strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and spinach.
- Try some herbal supplements. There are quite a few herbal remedies that can support your immune system while sick like echinacea, elderberry and lemon balm. You can also find these blended in our ImmuniTea. These are all safe for breastfeeding.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Whether you drink more water, a cup of green tea, herbal tea, or a smoothie, be sure to consume plenty of fluids.
- Saline. This will keep your nasal passages lubricated.
- Use a humidifier. Dry air can exacerbate your symptoms. Moisture will prevent coughing and make breathing easier.
- Ask for help. Having trouble handling everything? Hire a caretaker to assist with tasks or with caring for your family while you are recovering.
What Medicines Can I Take? Which Should I Avoid?
The following common medications are safe to use when breastfeeding:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Antacids (Maalox, Mylanta)
- Cephalosporins – broad-spectrum antibiotic for infections that are considered safe for infants but can lead to diarrhea
- Decongestant nasal sprays
- Allegra Allergy
Avoid aspirin, since it can pass through your breastmilk to your baby. You should also avoid long-acting (LA), extended-release (ER) or combination medications. Furthermore, stronger painkillers, like codeine, are not recommended. Steer clear of decongestants or expectorants, since these ingredients can reduce milk supply. When considering the safety of medications while breastfeeding, we recommend the resource Infant Risk.
An antihistamine called pseudoephedrine, which is common in medicines like Sudafed, should also be avoided. It can diminish milk supply.
Ask your doctor about the risks of any medication you’re prescribed when sick and breastfeeding, or if the OTC medication you have chosen is safe.
Reducing Your Baby’s Risk of Getting Infected
By taking a few precautions, you can keep your little one healthy. Here are some tips to reduce your baby’s chance of getting sick:
- Take your medicine. Refer to the list of safe medications.
- Always wash your hands with soap, water, and some hand sanitizer.
- Immediately discard used tissues and napkins in a waste bin.
- Do not kiss your baby when you are sick. Avoid face-to-face contact as much as you can.
- Never put your baby’s pacifier near your mouth when you are sick.
- Always cover your mouth and nose when you are coughing or sneezing.
When Should I Not Breastfeed When Sick?
There are only a couple of scenarios in which you are better off pumping and dumping your breastmilk:
- Cancer radiotherapy and chemotherapy
- Herpes lesions on breast
- Tuberculosis infection
- HTLV-1 (Brucellosis)
- or other illnesses and infections that can be transferred through breastmilk
In this event, seek medical advice to learn which is the best way to continue breastfeeding without interruption.
Breastfeeding with a fever or cold is not only doable, it’s recommended. There is no chance of your baby getting the cold or flu from you. Plus, breastfeeding can help you and your baby feel better faster! Just remember to take care of yourself and stay hydrated.
Get well soon!
Looking for more information about breastfeeding? Have questions that weren’t answered? Get more news and updates delivered to your inbox by filling out the contact form.