Are you a new breastfeeding mom, down with cold and fever? Are you afraid that you may pass the infection to your little bundle of joy, through the breastmilk? Has the doctor put you on medications? Are you worried how the medications will affect the breastfeeding baby? Are you in a dilemma whether you should continue to breastfeed or not?
Yes, any illness, minor or major, brings a lot of questions to the breastfeeding mother. Relax. You should always continue to breastfeed, even if you have common illnesses like cold, cough, fever, stomach infections etc. Your baby will continue to benefit from breastfeeding, no matter how sick you are. There are very few illnesses that require a mother to stop nursing the baby.
Most infections are caused by viruses and are contagious. You would have been infected by the virus much before you exhibit the symptoms like cold, cough or fever. Hence, it is highly likely that the baby is also infected, much before you realize you are sick.
Also, most infections are transmitted through air, skin contact or through secretions from the mouth and the nose, but not through breast milk. When you breastfeed during sickness, the antibodies produced in your body for that specific virus/bug is passed on to the baby, thus increasing her immunity.
Even in instances like food poisoning, or stomach/intestine bug, breastfeeding should not be stopped, as there is no chance of the baby getting infected through breast milk. Abruptly stopping nursing your baby when you are sick, would increase the chances of the baby getting sick and deprives the baby of the obvious comfort, security, and nutrition of breastfeeding.
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Well, almost any medication that is present in your blood will be found in your breastmilk to some extent. However, the quantity present is very low, and hence it poses a lesser risk for the infant nursing from you. It is observed that for some common drugs like Ibuprofen the quantity passed on to the child, through the breastmilk is 0.06% of the quantity taken by the mother.
However, there are some medications which can get concentrated in the breast milk. It is always recommended to inform the doctor beforehand, that you are a nursing mother. Typically, doctors recommend single-ingredient drugs to nursing mothers and avoid prescribing multi-ingredient drugs.
For example, if you have fever with body ache, your doctor may prescribe you a medicine IMOL which is a combination of two common drugs – Ibuprofen(prescribed for body pain) and Paracetamol(given to reduce fever). However, if you are breastfeeding, your doctor might prescribe two different medicines, let us say Dolo(contains only Paracetamol) and Brufen(contains only Ibuprofen). Risk of exposure to medication in breast milk is high for premature babies, newborns, and babies with poor kidney function. If your baby is hale and healthy and is over 6 months old, it would have a digestive system, which can metabolize the medication effectively.
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Breastfeeding, even during sickness, is recommended. However, it is always advisable to take certain precautions to shield the baby from infections.
Image Source: Mother How
#1. Keep yourself hydrated – There is a possibility of decreased milk supply, during sickness. So always drink lots of fluids to maintain the milk supply. Keep nursing the baby at frequent intervals, to stimulate milk production.
#2. Inform your doctor that you are a nursing mother – If your doctor wants to put you on medication, inform the doctor that you are breastfeeding mom. Request for medicines, which are not known to reduce milk supply, and also has no effect on your baby.
#3. Stay away from the baby after nursing – Infections, as you know spread through air and body fluids like saliva, nasal discharge etc. Avoid sneezing, coughing near the baby and wash your hands before you touch/hold your baby. Though it is tough, it is advisable to stay away from the baby except during breastfeeding. Request a family member to babysit, during this time.
#4. Never stop feeding abruptly – If the breastfeeding is stopped abruptly, the milk can build up in your breast, which can cause inflammation and infection, called mastitis. Unless, your doctor has advised you to stop feeding your baby, continue to do so.
#5. Know your sickness – Yes. Understand from your physician, if you have a common viral or bacterial infection, or any serious illness. Certain conditions like HIV infection, septicemia (blood poisoning) etc.require you to stop breastfeeding your baby immediately. Also, if you are undergoing any chemotherapy for cancer treatment, you are advised to stop feeding. If you have any diseases like tuberculosis, swine flu etc., which are not passed through breast milk, but are contagious through other means then avoid feeding the baby directly. You can try to express your milk, and it can be fed to the baby by an uninfected person.
#6. Express your milk – If you have been asked to stop breastfeeding or if your baby is also sick and not taking your milk, then also you should express your milk at frequent intervals, to prevent mastitis.
#7. Never consume over-the-counter (OTC) medicines – Always take prescribed drugs, when you are breastfeeding. You may never know, what ingredients the OTC drugs contain and it can be harmful to the baby. Even the common cough lozenges contain ingredients, which can interfere with your milk supply or can harm your baby.
#8. Keep a tab on chronic diseases – If you have chronic diseases like diabetes, thyroid hormone imbalance, etc., always monitor the health parameters as prescribed by the doctor. If you have diabetes, frequently monitor your blood glucose levels until the time you breastfeed.
Many mothers’ insulin requirement is reduced during breastfeeding. Discuss with the doctor and adjust your medication accordingly. If you have an underactive or overactive thyroid, monitor your thyroid hormone levels in the blood, regularly. Low thyroid hormones in your body can decrease the milk production. If you have an overactive thyroid, your doctor might have put you on thyroid suppressants. Work closely with the doctor, to make sure that your baby’s thyroid levels are not lowered as well.
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Well, as a breastfeeding mother, you have to take many precautions to continue nursing during illness. It is perfectly alright for you to feed the baby for your as well as the baby’s well-being. Till now, we discussed the precautions and now we will discuss the 5 advantages of breastfeeding your baby during sickness.
So, knowing all the advantages of breastfeeding during sickness and knowing all the precautions to take, it is always recommended to keep breastfeeding your precious bundle, unless and until your doctor forbids it.
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