Breastfeeding During Illness

Tips for Breastfeeding During Illness

When mother is sick such as with cold, flu, stomach bug, or covid-19, breastfeeding provides the infant valuable antibodies and protection. Nursing helps infants fight off infection and keeps mild symptoms from progressing into serious complications. Past studies have found that formula-fed infants have triple the risk of being hospitalized if they have a respiratory illness. Because of this, all major medical organization recommend breastfeeding mothers continue to nurse during illnesses, if possible. Basic precautions like hand washing and wearing a mask if you are frequently coughing and sneezing can reduce the viral load of germ transmission for the whole family. If you are able to spend extra time in bed with baby skin to skin this will help you to get your rest while also encouraging frequent, on-demand breastfeeding. 

2.  Monitor Milk Production

Sometimes mother notice a small decrease in milk supply during times of significant illness, but find that it rebounds in about one week with proper strategies to stimulate milk production. Signs your baby may need more frequent feeding or some additional breastmilk would be a decrease in wet diapers, baby not seeming satisfied after breastfeeding, and less audible swallows during feeds. If you notice these signs, please contact a lactation consultant right away to discuss strategies for supplementing. If you are a pumping mother, continue the same pump routine throughout your illness. Most women need at least 8 breastfeeds/pump sessions per 24 hours.

3.  Nourish Yourself

During any illness, mothers can become dehydrated and depleted nutritionally. This can impact not only how you feel but also milk production. Staying hydrated with electrolyte enhanced beverages can make a big difference. Try to drink 16-24 oz per day of an electrolyte enhanced beverage (such as Body Armour or LiquidIV) and additional adequate water intake. Eat foods high in complex carbohydrates (such as whole grains) as well as fruits and vegetables. We love Costco's Aussie Bites and Super Smoothie mixes for fast, easy and nourishing foods for mama.

4.  Check Medications for Breastfeeding Compatibility

Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, but its always a good idea to ask a lactation consultant to look up meds for you or you can call the Infant Risk Hotline (1-806-352-2519). Ibuprofen and tylenol are compatible with breastfeeding but be cautious of oral antihistamines or decongestants, which can reduce milk supply. Nasal sprays are generally a safer option or guaifenesin which works by thinning mucous instead of drying it up.

Virtual Consults for Families with Illness

Breastfeeding support is essential to the well being of a family even during a health crisis, and we would love to provide you video based support. You can schedule a telehealth lactation consult so we can assist with topics such as how to maintain milk supply during sickness, safe medications for breastfeeding mothers, strategies for reducing mother-baby transmission, tips for enhancing your rest, and guidance to ensure baby is thriving nutritionally.