Despite your best efforts to stay healthy, you may find yourself sick with a cold, the flu, Covid-19, or other illnesses during your breastfeeding experience. While any illness can present challenges to taking care of a baby, most do not require you to stop breastfeeding.
Infectious illnesses can spread at any time, but you’re more prone to getting sick with a cold or flu during the fall and winter months. Others, including Covid, are less season-sensitive, so it’s important to be vigilant, regularly practicing good hygiene (and ensuring that anyone who handles your baby does too) all year long.
Infectious illnesses are caused by viruses, fungus, and bacteria. Covid is particularly contagious because it is an airborne virus. It travels in respiratory droplets, so you can get sick by being in the presence of someone with the virus without even having physical contact with that person.
You can breastfeed while you are sick with just about any illness, including Covid, mastitis, influenza, seasonal allergies, and the stomach flu. In fact, being sick is generally a good reason to continue your breastfeeding routine. Your breast milk contains antibodies that help boost your baby’s immune system, and when you’re sick, they change to protect your baby against whatever it is that your body is fighting. You even pass on some level of immunity from vaccinations1.
While you’re fighting an infection, it’s a good idea to wear a mask and practice proper handwashing hygiene, to help reduce the chances of passing your illness to your baby. Try your best to avoid sneezing or coughing anywhere near your infant. If you feel particularly unwell, ask for help caring for your baby. Certain medications can cause a dip in your milk supply, but the dip is often temporary; your supply should return, once you’re well. (Consult your pharmacist about the impact of any medications you’re prescribed.)
Reach out to your provider, as soon as you are feeling unwell, to diagnose your illness and confirm that it is safe to breastfeed while you’re sick. Talk to your provider about any medications you are taking—and whether you can expect them to affect your supply.
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