Winter time in the Midwest goes hand in hand with cold and flu season! Any time a mother is ill the whole household can turn topsy-turvy. Add breastfeeding to the mix and the stress is even greater on mom. Not only is her health a concern, but also her baby’s. Let’s cover a few basic guidelines regarding illness and breastfeeding:
- All illnesses have an incubation period. During this period the mom may not be demonstrating symptoms but her immune system is hard at work making antibodies to fight it off. These antibodies are passed to her baby via breastmilk. This is a good thing – as it means if baby does in fact catch the illness, he or she will likely have a less severe case.
- Breastfeeding releases the hormone called oxytocin, also known as the “feel good hormone”. Oxytocin elicits feelings of calm and relaxation – both great for resting and healing!
- Many medications are safe for breastfeeding mothers to take. Some are not. A mother should always check with her physician and lactation consultant before taking anything.
There are precautions to take when a breastfeeding mother is ill:
- Moms should avoid breathing or coughing directly on the baby.
- Practice frequent handwashing.
- Moms can even wear a face mask whenever holding the baby close to her face to help decrease transmission.
Some serious illnesses do require a mom to refrain from breastfeeding her child. It is always best to work closely with a physician and lactation consultant in these situations to make sure the change in routine goes as safely and smoothly as possible.
If mom is feeling too weak to nurse she can pump her milk so that another caretaker can feed the baby. Mom should pump as often as her baby is eating to make sure her supply does not decrease. Some moms may notice a dip in supply while ill even if she is nursing or pumping regularly and this typically resolves once mom is feeling better.
Please don’t hesitate to contact our lactation team at The Breastfeeding Center of Chicago with any questions or concerns. 847-398-0434