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Can I Breastfeed When I Have Cold And Flu?

3 min read

A standard case of cold and flu should not really hamper your breastfeeding routine, and under most circumstances, you can continue to breastfeed. A stomach virus, a mild fever, a little infection should not be a reason to discontinue breastfeeding. Rare cases when breastfeeding needs to stop are HIV, cancer treatments like chemotherapy, HTLV-1 or any infection that spreads to the mother’s blood, where the risk is higher than the benefits of breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding mom

Breastfeeding With Cold Or Fever – 6 Reasons To Continue

Experts have maintained that it is absolutely safe to breastfeed a baby in case of common illnesses. Cold and flu viruses do not spread through breast milk. Here are the reasons you should not stop breastfeeding even when you have cold or fever.

  1. Boosts the baby’s immunity: You should know that you get infected earlier than you start showing symptoms – and because you were breastfeeding when you were infected, it is even safe now. Breast milk carries powerful antibodies that protect your baby from illnesses and boost his immunity. Uninterrupted breastfeeding will ensure that your baby does not get infected, and if he does, the same will be very mild
  2. Keeps the baby hydrated: Now that you know you have been breastfeeding before your symptoms surfaced, you should know that by continuing to breastfeed, you are keeping the baby hydrated. This further shields her from infections
  3. Maintains breast milk supply: Suddenly stopping or cutting down on breastfeeding can hamper the breast milk supply. If you are really sick, you can pump and dump the breast milk to keep the supply up, though there is no need to completely stop breastfeeding
  4. Provides comfort: Breastfeeding is highly comforting, both to a mother and her baby. When you breastfeed your baby, you feel relaxed and calm. Breastfeeding triggers release of oxytocin hormone, which helps you recover earlier as you are comforted and stress free
  5. Prevents early weaning: When you stop breastfeeding, even if it is temporarily, it can result in early weaning because your baby may not accept the breast later when you recover. Sometimes, even a gap of 2-3 days can make a baby reject the breast. This early weaning can affect both you and your baby
  6. Prevents mastitis: When you go without breastfeeding, excess milk can deposit in your breasts and cause the painful condition of mastitis. The built up milk results in inflammation and causes pain and extreme discomfort

As you can see, it is, infact, better to breastfeed when you have a common illness given the benefits. Breast milk is, infact, a great vaccination that protects your baby from many infections and diseases. Here are the common benefits of breastfeeding for the baby, and the mother.

Can I Take Medications For Common Illnesses When Breastfeeding?

If you are taking treatment for common illnesses like cold, flu, fever, stomach virus, sore throat etc., just remind the doctor that you are breastfeeding so that he can prescribe antibiotics that are safe during this period. If you run a fever for more than 3 days, it is best to visit a doctor as your health is also important and for successful breastfeeding, you need to be healthy.
Breastfeeding mother

What Precautions Can I Take So That The Infection Does Not Spread To The Baby?

Most common illnesses like cold, cough, sore throat etc. get subsidized by themselves. However, seek your doctor’s opinion if the conditions do not improve after 3 days or are making you very uncomfortable. Apart from taking medications, you could take the below precautions to stay healthy:

  1. Drink a lot of water to stay hydrated and produce ample milk
  2. If you are coughing or sneezing, cover your mouth with a clean handkerchief and use a sanitiser
  3. Always wash your hands before touching/lifting the baby
  4. Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to recover quickly
  5. Refrain from kissing your baby till you are sick. Avoid breathing directly on the infant

All these precautions will ensure that your baby gets all the necessary protection from the infection.

When To Stop Breastfeeding During Illness?

Rarely, if you have a condition like HIV, or an infection that spreads to your blood, you will need to take your doctor’s opinion on this and stop breastfeeding. If you have a contagious disease like swine flu or TB, consult your doctor if you can breastfeed directly or you can pump and your baby can be fed by someone who is not infected. You should also consult your doctor if you are taking any medications for stress, anxiety, depression or any other illness to know whether or not to breastfeed.
More on breastfeeding in our section here

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