Breastfeeding while you or your baby are sick

Breastfeeding offers immune benefits to both mom and baby during flu and cold season.

Studies show that breastfed babies tend to become sick less often and recover more quickly than formula-fed babies. Breast milk provides important antibodies that offer baby protection from viruses, and its rich nutrient supply keeps baby’s immune system robust. In addition, breastfeeding releases oxytocin, which reduces stress levels. Because stress lowers your immune response, oxytocin may offer mom and baby additional immune protection. In other words, flu and cold season is the most important time to breastfeed.

Should I continue to breastfeed when my baby is sick?

In most cases, lactation experts agree that breastfeeding a sick baby ensures a quick recovery. Breast milk contains antibodies, white blood cells, and other immune boosters in addition to vitamins and nutrients. When you’re nursing your infant, your body analyses your infant’s saliva and detects bacterial and viral infections. It then manufactures exactly the right breast milk composition to combat any existing infections. In addition to the immune support, nursing will give you both a sense of comfort, which is healing in its own right.

Should I change how I breastfeed when my baby is sick?

While breastfeeding is recommended even when your baby is sick, you may have to change how you breastfeed. A blocked nose can make it difficult for a baby to nurse and breathe at the same time, so you may need to feed more frequently in shorter sessions. Likewise, your baby’s favorite nursing position may change as a result of congestion. Be patient while your little one figures out how to cope with their first cold.

Can I still breastfeed when I’m sick?

Lactation specialists recommend moms continue breastfeeding even if they have the flu or a cold as long as you’re able to. As your body develops antibodies to fight the infection, it passes them on to your baby’s immune system in small daily doses, reducing their risk of a serious infection. However, since you are sick, and since breastfeeding uses a lot of energy and H20 from your body, please remember to take extra special care of yourself. Ask for more help from your family. Stay hydrated – try hot apple cider if you want something warm, wintery, and good for the immune system. Get plenty of rest.

Can I take cold medicines while breastfeeding?

Talk with your pediatrician or your pharmacist about the best breast milk-friendly medicines to take depending on your condition. They’ll be able to take the anxiety of treating your cold symptoms.

What if I’m too tired to breastfeed?

Honey, I feel that. Sometimes, it’s just not possible to do the best thing, so you make do with the next best thing. That happens a lot in parenting because so little is in our control. If you’re just too tired to breastfeed, let someone else take over your normal responsibilities and focus on getting well. Slip a wearable breast pump into your nursing bra and let modern engineering do the hard work. Pumping while you’re sick gives you some down time while also keeping your baby in immune-boosting breast milk. Plus, it’ll keep you from compounding a cold with mastitis.

A wearable pump makes preparing for flu and cold season easier.

One of the best ways to prepare for flu and cold season is to get a head start on a back up breast milk supply. If you’ve got a stash of breast milk in the freezer, your baby will have access to your immune support even if you’re too sick to nurse.