Breastfeeding While Mom or Baby Is Sick

Breastfeeding While Mom or Baby Is Sick

December 15, 2022

There are many reasons why breastfeeding in winter is beneficial for both mom and baby, but breastfeeding during the cold winter months, especially with so many germs going around, presents even more unique challenges.

With germs and viruses going around, breastfeeding is not only nurturing, but it also provides some protection for baby’s immune system as we can pass antibodies through breast milk. Initially, colostrum is ideal for newborn babies as it is high in antibodies and other components that begin to protect baby from pathogens. What is even more amazing is that if baby has picked up an illness, the breastmilk will begin to change and tailor antibodies to help baby. The contact between the baby’s saliva and the nipple is what helps this process. Baby may still get sick, but the length and severity of illness may decrease.

What to do when you or baby are sick?

For a baby who gets sick, one of the best things a mother can do is keep breastfeeding. Breastfeeding should continue as usual, and there is rarely ever a need to supplement with anything unless recommended by your pediatrician. Breast Milk is quickly, easily digestible, and does not increase mucus production. If baby has a cold and is congested, breastfeeding can be difficult. There are a variety of ways to help relieve discomfort and help breastfeeding: 

1.  Keep baby as upright as possible while nursing. 

2. Nurse often so that baby can get lots of antibodies and ensures baby gets frequent chances to get plenty of milk. 

3. Use saline drops and suction (we love the Nose Frida!) mucous before nursing. 

4. Run a cool mist humidifier. 

5. Diffuse some essential oils in an open area. Do not put any essential oils, VapoRub, or oils on baby’s skin, as it can hinder and not help baby.

Nurse in a steamy bathroom. Try to limit this to 15-20 minutes at a time.

If baby is too sick to breastfeed, expressed milk can be given via a cup, bottle, oral syringe, or dropper. If baby continues to refuse to breastfeed or has been vomiting and/or having diarrhea, call your pediatrician right away as we do not want baby to get dehydrated.

For a mom who gets sick, here are a few things to consider. 

1.    Before taking any medications, consider contacting your pediatrician, OB/GYN, or lactation specialist to make sure they are breastfeeding friendly and will not affect your milk supply or baby. If lactation-suppressing medications have been used, alternate medications can be discussed. 

2.   Using some of the tools for baby listed above will also help you! 

3.   There is also no need to stop breastfeeding. The antibodies your body is building while you are sick will pass on to baby through breastmilk and reduce the risk or severity of illness. 

4.   Contain your germs! Practice good personal care and hygiene by washing hands frequently. Consider covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wearing a mask when holding your baby close.

5.   Consider asking for help! Rest is important, so if there is someone who can help care for you and baby, don’t try to do it all yourself.

If there is a need to isolate away from baby, be sure to continue pumping on your usual feeding schedule.

Breastfeeding through illnesses, whether it’s you or your little one, can be challenging, but continuing to provide breastmilk to your baby can also be incredibly beneficial to you both. If you have any questions or concerns, contact your local lactation specialist or pediatrician. You’ve got this, mama!

We now off lactation counseling services at Pinnacle! Quick Assessment (30 minutes), full Evaluations and Treatment Sessions (60 minutes). Geetha Beauchamp is a certified lactation counselor.

As Geetha is an occupational therapist, these sessions can be billed to your insurance as a occupational therapy session.

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