Breastfeeding While Sick
Guest blog post by The Badass Breastfeeder
When I was a brand-new mom and my first son got sick, it triggered a fear in me that went all the way to my bones. I was still absorbing the idea that this tiny, vulnerable human being was totally dependent on me for his very life. Being faced with his fragility seemed too much to stand.
It made sense to me to keep breastfeeding him. We’ve heard before about how our bodies are awesome, life-giving machines, and we will hear about it again right now. I did not get sick during this scary time, but my body was still exposed to that same illness that made him sick. As soon as my body sensed those intruders, it began to make antibodies that were passed to my son through my breastmilk. These antibodies helped him fight off those invaders. Being skin-to-skin with me helped regulate his body temperature and nursing provided comfort and security. Our bodies do exactly what they need to do to protect our young. Our bodies are pre-programmed to act when our children are sick. For this reason, it is safe and recommended continuing to breastfeed when our babies get sick.
But what about when mom gets sick? Is it still safe to breastfeed? I remember the first time this happened, too! My initial reaction was to flee the home and keep my son safe from my germs. But as we know, we are exposed to an illness way before we begin to have symptoms. So, the illness was already in us. Just as had happened when my son got sick, my body was already making antibodies to help us both fight off the illness. Even though I was close to him with all my germs, he was getting germ-fighting antibodies through my breastmilk. When mom gets sick, it is recommended to keep breastfeeding. It is possible that your child will never come down with your illness, or if they do, it may be less severe and not last as long.
It’s very rare that a mom would need to stop breastfeeding due to an illness. The common cold and flu viruses, stomach bugs, or mastitis are all illnesses where it is recommended to keep breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is not only safe, it is helpful! Breastfeeding will also help calm your child when you need extra time to rest. Getting comfortable with the side-lying position can help you rest as well.
You can take the normal measures to prevent spreading illnesses to each other such as washing hands and not sneezing right in your baby’s face, but understand that getting sick is normal. We love to talk about how healthy breastfed babies are, but the reality is that all babies are going to get sick.
Being sick with children can be a complete nightmare. Try to give yourself a break while you and your child are fighting it off. Spend as much time resting as possible. Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t worry about changing the sheets right away and doing laundry if someone has vomited in bed. A towel over the wet spot works great in the meantime. Don’t feel guilty about turning on the TV, it’s OK to have some lazy days while you rest.
You can hear more about breastfeeding during an illness at The Badass Breastfeeding Podcast.