Breastfeeding With A Cold or Flu

March 27, 2012
Breastfeeding With A Cold or Flu

[Updated December 18, 2015]

Can I Still Breastfeed with a Cold or Flu?

Cold and flu season is upon us, which means many moms will soon start wondering if they can keep breastfeeding even when they’re under the weather. The good news is, in most cases, moms do not have to stop breastfeeding when they’re sick. In fact, being sick is even more reason to keep breastfeeding often!

Why is it safe to continue breastfeeding while sick?

Breast milk gives your baby the best protection against sickness. The protective antibodies it contains help your baby’s developing immune system fight off infection and illness. In most cases, if you have a contagious illness like a cold, flu or minor virus, your baby was exposed to it even before you showed symptoms. Of course, it’s still important to make sure you wash your hands often, avoid coughing or sneezing near your baby and put those kisses on hold for a few days!

When shouldn’t I continue breastfeeding?

It’s important to check with your doctor if you question what type of sickness you are experiencing, because although it’s generally safe to breastfeed or pump while sick, there are a few illnesses that can be passed on through breast milk. Some of these illnesses include HIV and septicemia (a bacterial infection that has entered the bloodstream).

Does cold medicine affect my ability to breastfeed?

Yes. You should definitely avoid over-the-counter medications that contain pseudoephedrine (a decongestant). If you need to take antibiotics or other prescription medications, just check with your health professional or Lactation Consultant to make sure they’re safe.

My supply dropped while I was sick. What can I do?

It’s common for a mom’s supply to decrease while she’s ill, but it should return to normal once she’s well. While you’re sick, continue practicing ways to increase milk supply like eating well, staying hydrated and pumping or breastfeeding often. This will help you maintain your supply throughout your sickness.

What happens to my breastfeeding routine if I need to be hospitalized due to illness?

Some hospitals allow breastfeeding moms to bring their babies to the hospital with them. If your baby can’t be with you, it’s important to pump on your usual feeding schedule. A hospital-grade (multi-user) pump like Medela’s Symphony is highly recommended.

What was your experience breastfeeding with a cold or flu? Share your story or tips for other moms in the comments below.


118 thoughts on “Breastfeeding With A Cold or Flu

  1. About a month ago, my husband and I were both very sick with a terrible cold… I even had a fever for two days. I was miserable but I continued to breastfeed as usual. I was scared because I just knew my baby boy (2 months old at the time) would be catching his first cold. However, he never became ill!! I truly believe it was due to prayer and breastmilk!

  2. I had the Norovirus and was bedridden for 5 days. My son was 7 months and still breastfed. I spoke to a midwife who told me to STOP feeding him! She didn’t even tell me to protect my milk supply and express. I now know her advice was completely inappropriate and it led to my milk supply dropping to next to nothing. So much so my son (who had been given formula by now) was frustrated when I tried feeding him when I was feeling better.
    I’m still breastfeeding my second son at 11 months and have no plans to stop anytime soon. I just wish I’d have been given the right advice the first time round.

  3. I have 8 children, one is still an infant and I have nursed through every sickness. My most recent experience was with my now 5 month old daughter. A family member with “a cold” got her sick. I caught it too. The “cold” turned out to be RSV. She ended up in the hospital for a week.The docs told me that had I not been breastfeeding and sharing my antibodies with her she may have been sick for much much longer than she was.

    • We’re sorry your little one got so sick, but we’re happy breastfeeding helped prevent it from getting worse. Thanks for sharing your story and we hope your little one is feeling better now.

  4. I very rarely get sick, so when I got the same virus my husband was still getting over I knew it was bad. I wanted to limit my 9 month old son’s exposure to our illness so his grandparents traded out keeping him for two nights while I continued to pump. He lost his appetite a bit but never got sick. Everyone kept telling me they didn’t believe he should be drinking my milk but I stuck to my guns and said it was the best thing. Now that everyone is back to normal, they all get to see the power of breastfeeding while mom is sick. It wasn’t easy. I wanted to just lay in bed all day and night because I was so miserable. But I forced myself to pump at my normal times like I would at work. I have zero doctor bills for my son to prove I did the right thing.

    • Hi Stephanie – We’re proud of you for being so devoted to breastfeeding. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. I have a bad cold right now and a one-month-old daughter. I will continue to nurse through this and keep my fingers crossed! There’s nothing worse than a sick baby…

    • Hi Kelly – Hang in there! We’re happy to hear you’re continuing to breastfeed. We hope you feel better soon.

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