Can I Breastfeed My Baby If I Am Sick?

It’s four in the afternoon and it hits you…the dreaded sore throat and headache that has been graciously gifted around family and friends, and finally given to you. You look down at that sweet baby of yours and freeze in sheer panic. Should I be offering breastmilk to my baby when I’m not feeling well? Will it make her sick because she has been exposed to my breastmilk? Take a deep breath…breastfeeding is the best thing for your baby even when you start to feel cruddy.

One of the most amazing things about your body and your nutritious milk is that it contains all of the really important illness fighters (antibodies) that your body makes. Because your baby is breastfed, your baby is actually able to protect themselves from infection before even being exposed to it. Recent studies even suggest that a mother’s milk changes composition to increase its ability to fight illness when either the baby or the mother is sick.

When you are feeling unwell, your milk supply can temporarily drop. Your body has a tendency to heal itself before working on secondary processes, like making milk. Continuing to feed your baby throughout the day (as tolerated) or at least pump, if that is more comfortable and manageable, is important to help maintain the supply of milk you have already established. Your sweet baby may be asking for feedings more frequently during the time because they have noticed a drop in the routine volumes they are used to. This is a natural way to help keep up your supply.

As always, limiting extra kisses and frequent handwashing is vital to avoid additional illness exposure to your baby. Keeping your baby away from others who are sick (including siblings) can also help to avoid those pesky germs. But if anything, KEEP NURSING. You and your milk are a powerful weapon against common colds and viruses and may be the perfect way to keep your sweet little one healthy.