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. I got a flu vaccine right after my LO was born. I am definitely fighting off the flu as I feel super achy. I know I can continue to breastfeed, but what about pumping? I’m with her all the time but usually pump an ounce each morning and then refrigerate separately until I have enough to freeze for a feeding to use later. Is this milk ok? Or should I discard it since she might be consuming it a month from now? Thanks.

    • Hi Casey, there are very few illnesses that can be passed through breast milk. In fact, your breast milk will contain higher levels of antibodies while you are sick, and is perfectly safe to feed to your baby. If you have additional questions about breastfeeding with a cold or the flu, please reach out to your healthcare provider. Hang in there and keep up the great work! – Kathy

  2. I got a very bad case of influenza a and my husband took me to Er because my fever wouldn’t stay down and it got up to 103.6. I still nursed my baby. Once at ER I told dr that I’m nursing And would only like medication that wouldn’t interfere with that. He told me that I shouldn’t have even been breast feeding while so suck because the virus would be in my milk and now that baby (10 week old son) probably has it in him now. That I knew was not correct right away but wasn’t going to argue. He then told me I needed to be on Tamiflu and that I could not nurse on it. To pump and dump for 6 days and continue nursing on day 7. I’m was extremely sad and disappointed because I knew now my baby would more than likely get it, but he said if I didn’t take it that I would sick for much longer. So I took one at ER and pumped and dumped around 25 ounces until I decided to call the NICU breast feeding consultants that helped me with my first child. They told me nursing while taking Tamiflu was definitely okay and that they get many similar questions all the time because many ER doctors don’t really know as much about breast feeding. Ughhhh I dumped all the milk with antibodies for nothing!! Luckedly my son only got a slight cough, but I had to put his shots on hold. All in all I continued nursing right away and still am although the fly cause a horrible double ear infection. One my ear drums burst causing Nasty discharge but I got to the dr on the second day and I’m now on the Zpack, also okay to nurse on. 99% of the time you can still nurse while sick or on antibiotics box little to none gets into your milk. It just may take you longer to get better because your giving most your antibodies to your baby first. Which I couldn’t think of doing anything better for my ill love bug! Always be sure to consult a breast feeding specialist or someone at la leche group near you before you quit nursing or before u pump and dump! Just google persons near you! 😉

    • Hi Peggy,

      I’m happy to hear that you were able to get the correct information about breastfeeding with the flu. Thanks for sharing your tips – just goes to show that it never hurts to get a second opinion (especially when that opinion is from a breastfeeding consultant). Hope you + baby are feeling better.

      – Kathy

  3. Hi
    I have a 2 week old born at 36 weeks. My 3 yr old has had a cold for about 6 days, now dissipating but a cough has surfaced that isn’t persistant. I started to feel sick 3 days ago, sore throat and sneezing. I only manage to breast pump 2 ozs on a good day.
    The past 3 days my husband has taken care of our new daughter and I feel not only terrible to not be able to take care of the baby but I also am wondering if it’s ok that I take care of her while being sick? I’m concerned since I’m not producing much

    Thanks

    • Hi Jillian,

      Oh no! We hope everyone in your family is feeling better. Your baby was likely exposed to whatever is making you sick before you even started to show symptoms, so it should be perfectly safe for you to take care of her if you’re feeling up to it. Remember that every drop counts when it comes to breastfeeding, and your breast milk can give your baby the best chance of fighting illness. If you have any further questions, we suggest that you reach out to your healthcare provider for more information.

      Kathy

  4. My son is 4 months old, he’s been breast fed since birth. A few days ago I got food poisoning and vomited everything and then some that was in my system. I continued to breastfeed but I had trouble keeping food down and even some liquids. I’ve been slowly trying to eat but I’m severe hypoglycemic and when I’m nauseous my blood sugar drops and I get even more sick. Going on day 4 now and I’m still weak, I noticed my milk supply has gone down and I’ve been drinking lots of liquids but whenever he breastfeeds he takes so much out of me that it makes me sick again. What can I do?

    • Hi Michelle,

      Hope you’re feeling better. We suggest that you reach out to your healthcare provider, as they would be best suited to assist you. For tips on increasing your breast milk supply, you can visit our blog here: http://bit.ly/1t4ZWjL

      Kathy

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