Can You Breastfeed While Sick? - Baby Chick
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Can You Breastfeed While Sick?

Here's what you need to know about breastfeeding a baby while sick and some things to avoid.

Updated May 21, 2024

by Rebecca Jacobs

Medically reviewed by Casey Williams

Registered Nurse and IBCLC

Let’s talk about whether you can breastfeed while sick. It’s a topic often brought up when momma is not feeling well, and many nursing moms wonder if getting close to baby and nursing is the best idea. Many moms also question whether limiting nursing sessions to avoid exposing their little ones to germs is best. Let’s take a closer look at what to do if you face the problem of breastfeeding while sick.

Can You Breastfeed While Sick?

Moms, you can breathe a sigh of relief because the answer is yes, and not only can you, but you should breastfeed while sick! Breastfeeding is a fantastic way to support your child’s immune system. By feeding your baby your breast milk, you provide them with the nutrition they need to grow and the support they need to protect them from illnesses.1 Breast milk contains necessary antibodies and immunological factors transferred to your little one when they breastfeed.4 These protective antibodies and factors support your baby by strengthening their immune system, helping them fight off illnesses they may be exposed to if they get sick.2

Another thing to know is that you are often contagious before symptoms appear. This means that baby was exposed to whatever germ you had before you knew you were sick.

What About Medications and Breastfeeding?

While it’s okay to breastfeed while sick, one thing to remember is the medication you may take to help combat your germ. Some medicines are not great for breastfeeding mommas, while others are fine.6 It is always best practice to check with your healthcare provider about over-the-counter medications before taking them. If you are being prescribed a medication by your provider, it is always a good idea to remind them you are breastfeeding to ensure the prescribed medications are safe.5 The good news is that plenty of safe drugs are safe to take.6 Be sure to talk to your doctor about your options so you can feel better and take care of yourself, too!

Some common antibiotics that are considered safe to take while breastfeeding include:6

  • Amoxicillin: used for bacterial infections, like strep throat or ear infections
  • Penicillin: used for bacterial infections, like strep throat or ear infections
  • Azithromycin: prescribed for bacterial infections, like pink eye or bacterial bronchitis

You can check with your doctor and IBCLC. You can also check the LactMed database, the government-sponsored database on medications and their safety while breastfeeding.

What About Coronavirus? Is It Safe To Breastfeed if You Think You Have It?

The CDC’s website has the most up-to-date guidance on breastfeeding mothers and COVID-19. It’s a good idea to periodically check the site and talk with your doctor if you have questions.

At the time of this article, there’s no conclusive evidence that the virus that causes COVID-19 can be passed to your baby via breast milk.7,8 If you have or suspect you have COVID-19, there are special precautions to take if you continue breastfeeding. This includes wearing a mask and washing your hands because a mom with COVID-19 could spread the virus to their infant through tiny droplets that spread when they talk, cough, or sneeze. If you are well enough to continue breastfeeding your baby, breastfeeding is considered safe when you have COVID-19, and you should not be separated from your baby.

How To Make Yourself More Comfortable if You Breastfeed While Sick

When you are sick, you may have very little energy and need to rest! A great way to breastfeed while sick is side-lying nursing. Lay baby in bed with you and nurse that way. Ideally, have a loved one help you by bringing your baby whenever they are ready to feed so you can rest between nursing sessions. This is also important to keep your milk supply up when you are sick without getting out of bed.

You will also want to stay hydrated. Hydration is even more critical when combatting an illness and 10 times more important when breastfeeding and sick. Stay hydrated as possible, and sip on some hot tea or fruit-infused water if plain water doesn’t seem all that appealing.

Other Tips To Keep Baby Healthy

Although it is encouraged in most circumstances to continue breastfeeding your baby even when you are ill, it is essential to take extra precautions to protect your baby from any illness. Here are some other steps you can take to keep your baby healthy.

Hand Washing

Hand washing is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection. Be sure to wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, and before holding or nursing your little one. Having a bottle of hand sanitizer handy can be helpful when you cannot get to a sink to wash your hands.

Wear a Mask While Nursing

While it may not be ideal, it’s a great way to help prevent the spread of germs, especially when you are in close contact with your baby. If you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, health experts have recommended wearing a mask when in close contact with your little one to prevent the spread of illness.3

Take Probiotics

Probiotics are excellent for immune health. They can help support your immune system and pass through your breast milk to give your baby a boost, too.

Pump if Needed

If you are extremely sick or in the hospital, you may need to pump and let someone else feed your baby. By expressing your breast milk, you can still support your little one’s health and help pass antibodies and protective factors on without directly exposing them to your germs. It is essential to wash your hands thoroughly before using your breast pump and properly clean your pump and parts after you finish.4

Getting sick is never fun, and being sick with a baby at home can be brutal! Remember to take care of yourself, rest as much as possible, and continue breastfeeding if possible to help provide your baby with some immune protection. A little rest and self-care for mom and some breastmilk for baby can have you on the mend before you know it while also giving your baby the immune boost needed to stay healthy at the same time, hopefully.

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Rebecca Jacobs is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant. She found her way into Holistic Nutrition after battling many health issues herself and decided it was time to take matters into her… Read more

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