Should I Breastfeed If I Am Sick?

As mothers, you will always want the best for your children. Throughout your breastfeeding journey, there will be times that you might fall sick. Should you still breastfeed when you are sick? It may sound counterintuitive or you might not be feeling up for it, but breastfeeding while you are sick is beneficial for your baby.

Is It Safe?

You are safe to breastfeed your baby even when you are having illnesses such as a common cold, flu, vomiting, diarrhoea, cough, fever, sore throat or others. In fact, despite your illness, breastfeeding your baby is safe in most cases, and has more advantages than disadvantages. You might feel that your baby will get sick if you continue to breastfeed when ill. However, since you have been breastfeeding your baby before, he or she might have already been exposed to the illness already.

Your baby will not catch the illness through your breast milk. On the contrary, they will benefit from the antibodies from your breast milk, reducing the risk of getting the same illness. This is because when you are sick, your body will produce antibodies to fight these illnesses, which will be passed to your baby through your breast milk and increase the baby immune’s system. This is supported by a past research which has found that this holds true in most cases, where mothers’ antibodies will be passed to the baby through breast milk, instead of the bacteria and virus.

Breastfeeding is also known to increase mother-baby bonding, which is comforting for both mother and baby, especially if you are not well enough to spend time interacting with your baby.

Of course, there are exceptions which require mothers to stop breastfeeding, such as if the mother has HIV, or if the mother is suspected or confirmed to have Ebola virus, active tuberculosis and chickenpox. In case of untreated HIV, ebola and active TB the breast milk contains virus so express milk is not safe for infant either. Formula milk is recommended.

Chicken pox mother can breast fed as usual as long as no lesion in the breast area and baby is not in contact with the lesions. If there is lesion in the areola, expressing breast milk only help to prevent engoregement and infection but the milk must be discarded.

To be safe, separate mother and infant until the lesion erupt and dry. During that time, expressed breastmilk can be given to the infant if there is no skin lesions in the breasts or if baby has received  varicella–zoster immunoglobulin. You should also inform your doctor or the medical staff that you have a baby and ask for recommendations.

Understandably, it is very tiring for a mother to breastfeed her baby when she is sick. If you are feeling very unwell to breastfeed your baby, you can opt to pump your milk out and pass it to your partner or a healthy caregiver, to feed your baby. You should also take care of yourself by drinking more fluids, so you can recover faster and take care of your baby. Do practice good hygiene measures, such as washing your hands before and after being in contact with your baby, to minimise the risk of infecting your baby.

Nevertheless, if you are on medication because of your illness or if you have any doubts and concerns, it is important to speak to your doctor first, before breastfeeding.

“Empower your parenting journey with Mama Net! Whether you’re just starting your journey into parenthood or are a seasoned pro, Download our app for free on the App Store and Google Playstore for access to certified content, interactive tools, and a community of supportive parents and mothers.”

“Empower your parenting journey with Mama Net! Whether you’re just starting your journey into parenthood or are a seasoned pro, Download our app for free on the App Store and Google Playstore for access to certified content, interactive tools, and a community of supportive parents and mothers.”

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