When you are sick, you and your baby will almost always benefit from continuing to breastfeed. There are very few illnesses that require a mother to stop nursing.
Since most illnesses are caused by viruses that are most contagious before you even realize you are sick, your baby has already been exposed before you even develop symptoms (such as fever, diarrhea, vomiting, rash, runny nose, cough, etc). Continuing to breastfeed will help protect your baby from the infection, because your body produces antibodies to the specific organism that is causing the infection, and you pass them on to the baby in your breast milk. Often, a breastfed baby will be the only member of the family who doesn’t get sick. If he does get sick, he will usually have a much milder case than the older members of the family. Illnesses are most often transmitted through skin contact and secretions from the mouth and nose. Be sure to wash your hands often, and try to avoid face-to-face contact, and sneezing near the baby.
Breastfeeding your baby while you are sick makes it easier for you to rest. Weaning abruptly is never a good idea, especially when you are sick; there is an increased risk of breast engorgement and mastitis along with emotional distress of sudden weaning for both you and the baby.
One most important thing to keep in mind is to take plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration. Your milk supply may decrease during and after your illness, but it will quickly build back up when you feel better.
Some important and common drugs and illnesses
- Analgesics:Ibupropen is the preferred analgesic
- Antacids are usually safe
- Artificial Sweeteners: Saccharin and Splenda (sucralose) are not known to cause any problems in nursing moms.
- Cold, and AllergyPreparations: Try to use single ingredient, short acting forms of the drug.
- Forcoughs: Avoid products with an alcohol content of over 20%.
- Antidiarroheal preparationscontaining ‘loperamide’ are safe
- MRI is a non-invasive technique that will not affect your breast milk.
- Ultrasound and CT scans are non-invasive procedures that should not affect your breast milk or interfere with breastfeeding.
- Mammogramscan be performed while you are nursing, without affecting your breast milk. Be sure to empty your breast by pumping or nursing before the procedure.
- If you need chemotherapy and treatment with radioactive compounds, temporary or permanent weaning will be necessary.
- HIV infection:There is evidence that the HIV virus can be transmitted through breastfeeding. We need to weigh benefit versus risks
- Herpes Simplex I(cold sores) and Herpes Simplex II (Genital Herpes): you can nurse the baby if he doesn’t touch the sores.
- If you have cardiac problems,you can and should continue nursing. The release of prolactin has a relaxing effect, and can benefit women with cardiac problems.
- If you have high blood pressure, low-dose diuretics and beta blockers are safe.
- If you getchickenpox within five days before giving birth, you may need to be separated from your newborn for a few days to minimize the chance of infection. If this happens, express your milk and give it to your baby.
- Hepatitis A, B & C– you can continue to breastfeed
- Malaria, or Rubella (German Measles)– you can continue nursing, if this is necessary. Express your milk and feed it to your baby until you are no longer contagious and can resume nursing.
- In STDs (sexually transmitted disease)such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphllis, and Trichomonas – no need to discontinue breastfeeding
- Women withchronic illnesses can almost always breastfeed.
- If you arediabetic, breastfeeding offers many advantages. It reduces your stress level, reduces the risk of the baby developing diabetes
- Mothers withepilepsy can nurse. The medications needed to control the seizures may cause sedation and poor sucking in your baby.
- Thyroidlevels can change during pregnancy and lactation, even with mothers who never had thyroid irregularities before.
- An underactive thyroidcan cause fatigue, poor appetite, and depression. Thyroid supplements taken during lactation will not hurt your baby. An overactive thyroid can cause serious health problems. If radioactive therapy is recommended, temporary weaning may be necessary. Keep in mind that all of the OTC medications approved for use in nursing mothers are very safe, and in nearly all cases, the risk of side effects on your baby is extremely small. You are not going to hurt your baby. Remember all the advantages of human milk and how important breastfeeding is to you and your baby, and try to find a supportive health care provider who believes that nursing is as important as you do.