Breastfeeding with a Cold

Many new moms worry about whether or not they can breastfeed while having a cold, now that the cold and flu season has descended on us. The good news is yes, you can continue breastfeeding with a cold in most cases. However, precautions should be taken.

Can I Continue to Breastfeed When Having a Cold?

If you find yourself under the weather with a fever, cold, stomach virus or flu, fear not. It is just fine, under most circumstances, to continue breastfeeding your little one. Chances are that you have exposed those around you to your illness already, including your baby. The good news is that as your body produces illness-fighting antibodies to come to your rescue, they are working double time for the benefit of your baby. When you breastfeed with a cold, you are passing these antibodies to him/her.

It is important to still use measures like washing your hands often and trying to avoid coughing and sneezing around your baby. As hard as it may be, you should also save up the baby smooches for when you are feeling tip top again.

Being sick is not a reason to abruptly wean your little one. Since rest is the best remedy, be sure that you are getting plenty of it. If you can have a helper to bring your baby to you for feedings, you will find breastfeeding with a cold less taxing and get that much-needed rest.

When to Call a Doctor

It is best to check with your doctor if you have had a fever for 3 days or longer, or if you have questions about the kind of sickness you are experiencing. Although it is generally safe to breastfeed or pump while you are ill, there are some more serious illnesses such as HIV or septicemia that may pass through breast milk.

If your illness turns out to be a bacterial infection and requires antibiotics to get better, be sure to let your doctor know you are breastfeeding and ask for compatible medication. If there is no such option, then you will want to pump and dump the breast milk while taking it. By continuing to pump you will help to keep your milk supply up while you recover.

In the meantime, you can offer your baby formula or stored breast milk. Some areas even offer milk banks for nursing mothers who needs help. Also, keep in mind that your milk supply may dwindle a bit while you are sick, but it will improve when your health does. Remember to drink lots of fluids for your recovery as well as for your milk supply.

How to Deal With a Cold While Breastfeeding


Now you are assured that you can keep breastfeeding with a cold, you might also wish to know what medications you can take to deal with the illness.

  • Take medication only as needed and it is best to take your medication right after you nurse.
  • Only treat your symptoms. Don't over-medicate, and avoid using a combination medication when there is a medication treating single symptom available.
  • Drugs that are short-acting (6 hours or less) are better as opposed to long-acting types when you breastfeed with a cold.
  • If possible, use a nasal spray and forgo the oral medication.

Home Remedies

It is normal to lose your appetite if you have a cold. This usually only lasts a few days but it is important not to force yourself to eat. A few things you can proactively do to help yourself until you feel better are:

  • Get plenty of rest.
  • Eating a healthy diet. This includes lots of fresh fruits and veggies as well as a low-fat, high-fiber food.
  • Keep hydrated, you are losing extra due to a running nose, sweating and possibly vomiting.

In addition to the tips above, there are also some remedies for you to try:

  1. Saline nasal drops

Saline nose drops are salt water that can help to clear blocked nasal passages.

  1. Vitamins and mineral supplements

If you are breastfeeding with a cold, you might think it is most beneficial to take vitamin C during the onset of a cold, but there is little evidence to support this. There is, however, some evidence that supports taking a zinc supplement within the first days when symptoms appear speeds up recovery from a cold. The severity of the symptoms may be reduced as well.

  1. Gargling and menthol sweets

To help relieve a sore throat and a blocked nose, some people follow grandmother's advice and gargle with salt water or sucking on menthol sweets.

Disease That May Affect Breastfeeding

Although you can keep breastfeeding with a cold, there are some diseases that might affect breastfeeding:

  1. Cold sores or genital herpes

If you have genital sores, it is important to speak with a doctor as the herpes virus can be fatal in newborns and infants up to 3 weeks old. Sores can transfer to the breast. However, if a sore is present, nursing is still possible on the other breast.

  1. Hepatitis C

The risk of transmitting hepatitis C is minimal but if you are in the acute phases, you should temporarily wean your baby. It is a virus that is transmitted through needles, blood and sexual contact and it will begin as a mild infection before turning into jaundice. Chronic liver disease will develop in half the people who contract it.

  1. Cancer

When you have malignant blood cells that rapidly multiply out of control, its cause is cancer. Many types of cancer can be cured, so early detection and prompt treatment are imperative. There are many types of diagnostic tests if cancer is suspected, and some testing can affect breastfeeding. You will need to wean your baby depending on the treatment you receive.

  1. HIV/Aids

There is evidence to support that through breastfeeding the HIV virus can be transmitted. The average risk for HIV transmission to children born to and breast-fed by infected women is 1 in 7. Although a majority of infant cases of viral transmission happened during the late pregnancy and delivery times, with breastfeeding infants this occurs 1/3 of the time.

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