Breastfeeding With A Cold or Flu

March 27, 2012

[Updated February 6, 2018]

It’s that time of year again – cold and flu season. Breastfeeding moms may be asking two questions:  how do I keep the flu and cold germs away from my home? And, can I still breastfeed with a cold or flu?

Protect your Environment

The best way to prevent the spread of germs and viruses is to keep things clean. The CDC recommends washing your hands (a lot!) and cleaning and disinfecting the surfaces and items at home, work, or school that are touched most often. And that includes your pumping supplies! That’s why we’ve added a Breast Pump and Accessory Sanitizer spray to our Quick Clean family of products. Use it to safely eliminate 99.9% of bacteria and viruses – including H1N1 (Influenza A) and common cold (Rhinovirus Type 37) – on your breast pump parts and accessories, and on other surfaces that see a lot of traffic, like changing tables, counter tops, door handles, TV remote controls, and handrails. Better safe than sick!

Can I still breastfeed with a cold or flu?

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! You’ll help protect your baby (more on that below), and taking a few moments to sit back and nurse may give you some much needed downtime. If you are too sick to breastfeed or care for your baby, pump your milk and have a healthy caregiver feed your baby until your doctor gives you the go-ahead to nurse again.

Note: If you have a newborn and are in a health care setting and have been positively diagnosed with the flu, the CDC has recommendations that may guide your health care provider in caring for you and your breastfed baby: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/infectioncontrol/peri-post-settings.htm.  

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!

Does cold medicine affect my ability to breastfeed?

Yes. Some medications may contain ingredients that can impact milk supply. If you need to take antibiotics or other medicine, just check with your doctor or Lactation Consultant first.

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

A mom’s supply may 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 breastfeeding and pumping often, eating as best you can, and keeping hydrated. 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) breast pump like the Symphony is highly recommended.

 

What was your experience breastfeeding while sick? Share your story or tips for other moms in the comments below.

 

126 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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