Bonding with your child and providing them with nutrition make breastfeeding a magical experience. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t feel all that wonderful. When you’re sick and still breastfeeding, you might feel drained and worn out. You might wonder whether it’s safe to keep breastfeeding while sick. The short answer is that – in the vast majority of cases – you absolutely can continue breastfeeding while sick. The long answer tells us a lot about breastfeeding and how you and your baby interact.
How Breastfeeding Affects Immunity
There are a variety of reasons one might worry about breastfeeding while sick. Medications, dehydration, and contagions all top that list. Usually, a mother’s primary concern is that the close contact with baby will make him more likely to catch what she has. "If I keep breastfeeding while sick, won’t I give baby what I’ve got?"
Remember that symptoms are our bodies’ immune response to an illness, not the illness itself. So, in reality, the baby has already been exposed to the illness before you ever notice a symptom. Stopping once you don’t feel well probably won’t change their exposure at all.
Once you notice symptoms the baby has already been exposed to the contagion and your antibodies. Your body’s first response to a potential illness is to produce antibodies that circulate to identify and eliminate it. Those same antibodies cycle through your breastmilk, which means your baby has an advanced defense system and is protected from anything you are fighting.
This is a beautiful example of the power of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding While Sick
Contagious illnesses aren’t the only ones a breastfeeding mother might worry about. There are chronic conditions like diabetes and thyroid disease, even cancer. Despite the type of illness, the common denominator is that you simply don’t feel well.
There are many benefits to keep breastfeeding during an illness, such as transmitting antibodies, forcing yourself to rest, and having the baby’s needs keep you motivated to take care of the and your own. No one will tell you it’s easy, however, and proactive self-care is absolutely vital.
If you’re breastfeeding while sick, limit other activities and obligations as much as possible. You need all your bodies resources to help you heal and keep producing enough breastmilk without draining your body.
Keep it simple:
- Eat nutritious foods
- Breastfeeding safe and illness appropriate herbs
Try to nurse side-lying, that way you get plenty of rest while taking care of your baby. Side -lying is also helpful when toddler runs up to nurse-while-standing as you lay on the couch. Use plenty of pillows and props if you need to sit up and to support the baby. Sore muscles and achy posture will just make you feel more miserable. Expend less energy holding your little one so that you can direct it toward making milk and getting better.
Hydration is always important, especially when you are breastfeeding while sick. Keep a gallon jug of water nearby, or a cup with a bendy straw, so that you can easily drink while laying down and camped out in bed. Nourishing herbal teas, like Nursing Nectar, can contribute to your milk supply while keeping you hydrated. If you can’t drink much, have someone freeze the tea into a popsicle.
Finally, as much as you can, choose good nutritious foods to sustain your body while it works overtime for both you and your baby. Bone broth or veggie broth is a universal healing food. For an upset stomach, use Stomach Soother to ease the nausea and get you closer to eating good foods.
When You Have to Pause Breastfeeding for an Illness
There are times, such as when strong medication have been prescribed or when the illness is severe, that we might still be uncertain about continuing to breastfeed. When illness is more serious, you need to work with both your doctor and pediatrician, as well as a lactation consultant, to decide the best options for both you and the baby.
If you determine that it is best to pause breastfeeding there are the "next-best" options to get you through. Donor milk is a great option and getting easier to locate through reputable sources. If your taking a strong medication or treatment for specific period of time you may be able to continue pumping and dumping your breastmilk. Let There Be Milk herbal breastfeeding supplement can help you keep your supply up.
If neither of these are feasible and you must wean, take your time to grieve and thank your body and your baby for the time you got to nurse. Find creative ways to strengthen your bond to together and continue to foster your relationship in other ways.
In all other scenarios, remember that the best way to keep your supply up is to keep nursing. So if it isn’t completely contraindicated for your condition, the best course of action is to take care of your body and continue breastfeeding.
I sincerely hope you feel better soon and this post gave you some good ideas about how to keep your milk supply up while you are sick or helped you come to terms with prioritizing your health above all else! You are a good mom and some days you just don't feel good. Remember healing is a process that takes longer than we want it to. Be patient and take good care of yourself!