If you’re floored with the flu or just feeling a bit under the weather, you may wonder, “Can I breastfeed while sick?”. The short answer is yes, absolutely! Not only can you keep breastfeeding when sick, but you should.
If you have a common illness like a cold, the flu or stomach flu, breastfeeding will not transmit the infection to your baby. On the contrary, your breastmilk will contain antibodies that your body has produced to fight the infection and they will help protect your baby too. There’s no need to be separated from your baby when you’re sick, since you’ve most likely already exposed them to the virus or bacteria before you even knew you were infected. Hand washing and other common hygiene measures will help protect your baby from infection.
When breastfeeding while sick is not recommended
If you are unwell or taking medication and are unsure if it is ok to breastfeed always check with your doctor or healthcare professional.
Taking medications while breastfeeding
It’s natural to feel hesitant about taking medications if you’re breastfeeding while sick but while it’s true that many medications pass into the breastmilk, only a few are not recommended for nursing mothers. Just be sure that your health care provider knows that you’re breastfeeding if you need a prescription medication. It’s always a good idea to check with them if you’re unsure about the safety of an over-the-counter treatment as well. Aspirin, for example, is not considered safe for babies, whereas ibuprofen and paracetamol are. Some medications are safe for the baby but could cause sleepiness and slow down your milk production. In general, medication is more likely to affect your breastmilk if it:
Is extra strength or long acting
Is designed to treat multiple symptoms
Is taken over a long time
Contains several active ingredients
Babies who are exclusively breastfed, younger than a month or lighter than other babies their age are more likely to be sensitive to medications in the breastmilk than others.