If you’re worried about transmitting the flu or any illness through breastmilk, rest assured—it is very rare for moms to have to stop breastfeeding, even when they are sick.
Breastmilk will not transmit your illness to your baby. In fact, the opposite is true—your breastmilk will contain the same antibodies your body is using to fight whatever illness you have, and therefore it’s incredibly important to try to continue breastfeeding even if you are sick. The antibodies you can pass to your baby through your breastmilk will be specific to your illness, giving your child protection he or she would otherwise not have. Staying with your breastfeeding regimen will continue to help build your baby’s immune system during that critical time of illness.
If you’re overly tired, try a nursing position that can also help you rest. The side-lying position is a great one to use if you are sick. Lie on your side with your underneath arm stretched above your head. Nestle the baby’s tummy to your tummy and offer the inside breast. Use your outside arm to tuck baby in closely and securely.
Most medicines used to treat flu and other illnesses are generally perfectly safe to use while breastfeeding, but always talk to your health care professional before starting any medications to ensure they are safe specifically for you and your baby.
Tips for nursing through the flu season:
- Get vaccinated (and the whole family, too). Flu vaccinations, both by shot and nasal, are safe for you to get while breastfeeding.
- Germ spread prevention. Washing your hands, disinfecting surfaces, and even wearing a nose and mouth mask while breastfeeding can all help protect your baby—even if you’ve already caught the cold or flu yourself :(
- Stay hydrated. If you do get sick, your body will need extra fluids to help fight dehydration. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water to prevent your milk supply from diminishing.
- Pump. It is important to keep to your breastfeeding schedule if you can. If someone else is feeding the baby your expressed breastmilk, be sure to pump so your body keeps producing milk.
Sometimes, despite all your excellent care and precautions, your baby may still get sick. Just remember, the flu can be very serious in young babies. Make sure your baby’s doctor is called if you notice symptoms of any illness. Breastmilk is always the best nutrition for them, especially when they are sick. Be sure you’re ready to be more in demand though; sick babies need extra fluids—just like sick adults.
I wish you the best of health, and happy breastfeeding!
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