Tuesday, December 17, 2013

I'm Sick. My Baby Is Sick. Now What?

Coincidentally I have been asked by three different moms today if they should continue to breastfeed their children while either a) mom is sick or b) baby is sick. The reason they came to me about it is because their children's pediatricians/nurses told them to a) stop breastfeeding altogether b) stop breastfeeding during the illness or c) pump and offer bottles of breast milk. These women didn't feel that they were being given correct information. They asked what I would do if it were me or the twins.
This picture is a riot. (apronstringsattached.com)

Well, what I would do, and what I have done, is NURSE ON. What these doctors and nurses told these moms is the most asinine thing I have ever heard. Breast milk is like medicine, it is full of antibodies from the mother's body, and it is the absolute best thing that can be given to your baby if it is available, ESPECIALLY if you or your baby is sick. If mom is sick, then baby is getting all of those wonderful antibodies for that illness, on top of all of the other ones they were already getting. This means your baby likely won't catch what you have, and if they do it will be very short lived. If baby is sick, then they need all of mom's antibodies so much more than they normally do. The rare exceptions to this include if mom has HIV, HTLV-1, or is on medications that can pass through the milk and pose harm to the baby.

  • The best thing you can do for your baby when you’re sick is to continue to breastfeed. When you have a contagious illness such as a cold, flu, or other mild virus, your baby was exposed to the illness before you even knew you were sick. Your milk will not transmit your illness to baby, but it does have antibodies in it that are specific to your illness (plus anything else you or baby have been exposed to) – they’ll help prevent baby from getting sick, or if he does get sick, he’ll probably not be as sick as you.        
  • During any “ordinary” illness such as a cold, sore throat, flu, tummy bug, fever, mastitis, etc. you should continue to breastfeed. Just remind your doctor you are nursing so that if medications are needed he can prescribe something that is compatible with breastfeeding. Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding, and for those that are not recommended there is almost always an alternative medication that is safe. -http://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/illness-surgery/mom-illness/


  1. That’s very informative, Claire! Breastfeeding when sick sounds odd, but contrary to common misconception, it’s actually a good way to protect your child since you’re passing those illness-fighting antibodies to them. Though if you're taking strong medication for whatever you're having, it might be best to stop for a while, or ask a specialist if that medication can affect your breastfeeding.

    Logan Rojas @ Focus on Kids Pediatrics

  2. There’s always a misconception that breastfeeding could transfer an illness, like cold or fever, from the mother to the child. Hopefully, your post will be read by mothers who worry about such issues, and they won’t hesitate to nurse their child, even if they’re sick. On the other hand, it is definitely important to talk to your doctor when you’re taking medications. Anyway, thanks for sharing, and take care!

    Candace Hudson @ MedCare