How To Deal with a Sore Throat While Breastfeeding

Pregnancy and motherhood will take a lot out of you, especially if this is your first time breastfeeding. While the act of nursing may come naturally, there is also worry and stress involved. You may even get sick or end up with a sore throat. When this happens, you may need to go on antibiotics or other medication to keep the infection at bay—but that’s a double-edged sword. That medication meant to make you better can pass through your breast milk to your baby.

So what do you do? How do you breastfeed with a sore throat? We’re going to answer those questions and more, so keep reading.

Causes Of A Sore Throat

A sore throat, which is generally irritation or pain of the throat, is usually a symptom of something else. Here are some of the causes of a sore cold:

  • Allergies
  • Dry throat and muscle strain
  • Exposure to irritants, such as aerosols and chemicals
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and/or heartburn
  • Viral infections and diseases, such as influenza, the common cold, chickenpox, measles, and mononucleosis.
  • Bacterial infections like streptococcus (strep throat) or streptococcus pyogenes. Whooping cough and diphtheria also fall into this category.

Sore Throat Symptoms

Sore throats, depending on what they are caused by, may be accompanied by other effects, such as swollen glands, tenderness to the touch, painful swallowing, and even swollen tonsils, or tonsillitis. You could also experience a headache, aches, pain, and elevated temperature (fever).

If you have other symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, a runny nose, chills, coughing, pus on your tonsils, white patches on your tongue, and a hoarse voice, you should see a doctor or other nurse practitioner as soon as possible.

When To Seek Medical Assistance

While medical attention and medication is not always necessary for a sore throat, there are some instances where it is required. According to a UK survey, people who visited the doctor often saw their symptoms clear up within a week, but most cases took 10 days to disappear.

If you have a temperature that doesn’t decrease with medication, a fever upwards of 100 degrees F (38 degrees C), symptoms that linger for a week or more, and specific medical risks (anti-thyroid drugs, spleen removal), you should visit a doctor.

Treating A Sore Throat During Breastfeeding

The treatment you are prescribed depends greatly on the cause of your sore throat. Unless the case is severe, or your illness is contagious, you won’t have to worry about strong antibiotics that can pass into your breastmilk.

The following treatments are compatible with nursing:

  • Anesthetic sore throat sprays. Avoid lozenges and throat sprays that contain phenol and hexylresorcinol. Only choose lozenges with cepacol, menthol, or benzocaine. If you can find sprays or lozenges with dyclonine, that’s even better. Too much menthol can reduce your milk supply.
  • Check the active ingredients in Delysn, Benylin, and Robitussin. Most of the time, these are safe to use while breastfeeding.
  • OTC analgesics, like ibuprofen and Tylenol, are generally safe to use while nursing.
  • Throat rinses.
  • Echinacea and Zinc supplements.

Do not use decongestants, since the ingredients can limit your milk production.

Home Remedies For Sore Throats During Nursing

Aside from medications from the pharmacy, you can also tackle a sore throat using home remedies. There are plenty of natural options that will not limit your milk supply or harm your baby.

  • Gargle salt water. Simple but effective. Dissolve a teaspoon or two of salt in a cup of hot water, gargle it, and spit. Salt is antiseptic. Repeat a few times throughout the day.
  • Drink lemon-honey water. Squeeze some lemon juice and 2 teaspoons of honey into warm water or green tea. Honey and lemon both have antiseptic properties and will soothe the pain. Do not give your infant honey.
  • Inhale steam. Add some menthol crystals and inhale steam to relieve congestion and dryness.
  • Drink warm fluids and teas. There are plenty of herbal teas and other warm fluids that can reduce pain and congestion. Chamomile tea; hibiscus tea; slippery elm, licorice root, and marshmallow root tea are a few good options. Soups are another good choice (but don’t choose a thick, creamy broth).
  • Essential oils. Eucalyptus or peppermint essential oils daubed onto a cotton ball and inhaled through the nose can numb and cool congestion and sore throats. This has a similar effect as Vicks. Never put oils directly on your skin (or your baby).
  • Vitamin C supplements. Optionally, eat fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. Raw garlic is also great for vitamins and minerals and is considered an anti-inflammatory.

Remember that, while you are taking care of yourself, you also need to be careful around your little one. Avoid face-to-face contact while you have a sore throat and wash your hands regularly.


Can you breastfeed when sick? Of course! But you need to take some precautions to protect yourself and the health of your infant. Try natural remedies first, and if you continue having difficulties with your sore throat or your symptoms worsen, you need to go to a doctor. Otherwise, you should be able to get right back to breastfeeding your little one soon!

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