Breast Feeding is a natural process to provide food to your newborn. Mothers breastfeed their infants for 1-2 years to give them proper nutrition and build their immune systems. Not only for biological babies but breastfeeding is an important aspect for adopted babies as well. Since it provides an opportunity for the mother to bond with the baby and develop a strong emotional connection.
However, one of the most common and significant questions that arise for breastfeeding mothers is whether they should continue to breastfeed when they are unwell. This question is particularly pertinent given the current global health crisis.
In this guide, we will discuss whether mothers should continue to breastfeed when they are ill. We will provide expert advice and recommendations to help mothers make informed decisions that will benefit both themselves and their babies.
Is It Safe To Breastfeed When ill?
Most mothers stop breastfeeding their newborns due to fear of passing sickness. However, in many cases, these concerns are unnecessary. Most illnesses have no adverse effect on breast milk or the immunity of the baby.
The safety of breastfeeding while sick can be determined by studying the benefit-risk ratio, which is the benefits of breastfeeding by a mother to an infant weighed against the risk of illness transmission or effect on a newborn. Ordinary sicknesses do not infect the baby. It’s not practically or medically possible for most diseases to pass on to babies through breast milk. A mother should not discontinue breastfeeding during common illnesses like:
- Cough and cold
- Gastrointestinal issues like IBS(Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
In fact, it’s not only safe, but it’s actually helpful to breastfeed your baby during an illness. Your baby receives antibodies from your body, skin-to-skin contact, and breast milk to fight the same illness as you. It makes their immune system stronger.
Not nursing or breastfeeding a baby during your illness can expose him to more risk of developing the same sickness. Therefore, continue to breastfeed your baby without any second thoughts. You can also take prescribed medication compatible with breastfeeding to relieve your symptoms. Medications do not interfere with breastfeeding; even if some do, there are counter medications suitable for lactating mothers.
Avoid Breastfeeding If You Have These Illnesses
Some rare and serious medical conditions can affect breast milk and baby. Unfortunately, mothers should avoid breastfeeding for these illnesses:
- HIV(Human Immuno Deficiency Virus): Mothers should not continue breastfeeding as the virus can pass to the breast milk and infect the baby.
- Hepatitis: Mothers can breastfeed after the baby has received vaccination against hepatitis B and hepatitis C. If you notice cracked or bleeding nipples, discontinue breastfeeding immediately.
- Tuberculosis: Treated TB mothers currently taking medications can breastfeed safely. But a mother with untreated TB during or after delivery should not breastfeed. Any skin-to-skin contact or breastmilk can pass on infectious agents to the baby. You can resume pumping and storing breast milk after 2 weeks of medication. For self-breastfeeding, talk to a doctor.
- Chickenpox or varicella: Chicken pox can pass on to the baby if open vesicles/blisters are near the nipple area.
- Cancer: Do not breastfeed after recent chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- Septicaemia: This is an advanced form of food poisoning. Women who develop this must refrain from breastfeeding as the toxins spread to the bloodstream.
- Measles: Skin-to-skin contact must be limited as the rash onsets. You can still express your milk and get your husband to feed it through the bottle.
Until a mother is fit to continue breastfeeding, she should consider expressing their milk by hand. However, knowing when to start expressing milk is essential for new mothers as delaying the process might reduce the milk supply. Using a manual pump or electronic pump will help you ease the process. This pump and store method will ensure your baby gets the complete form of nutrition and forge a relationship with breastmilk.
Any caretaker, nurse, or father can feed the baby using a feeding bottle. After you are ready to breastfeed by skin contact, it will be easy for you and your baby to continue the breastfeeding relationship.
Tips For Breastfeeding When Sick
Even Though it’s absolutely safe to breastfeed your baby during sickness, it never hurts to take some necessary precautions. These are some caution tips for breastfeeding when sick:
- Practice general sickness norms. Wash your hands with a handwash before and after breastfeeding or nursing your baby to eliminate all germs.
- Disinfect your hands with a sanitizer or handwash while changing baby diapers and clothes to maintain maximum safety and hygiene.
- Do not sneeze openly. Catch coughs and sneezes on your inner elbow, and keep a handkerchief handy. Do not land them directly on your palm. Remember to wash your hands thereafter.
- Sickness drains out several fluids and energy from the body. Mothers should keep themselves hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids and eat a well-balanced meal to maintain optimal milk production. It’s also necessary to get enough sleep.
- Check the medication composition before consuming. Consult your healthcare provider to examine all tablets and drugs before the final prescription.
- Avoid medications that cause drowsiness or headaches. Some drugs have anti-lactating components that reduce the production of milk in a woman’s body. Try to keep them at bay.
- If you have to go to the hospital in case of acute illness symptoms, pump and freeze your breastmilk in a bottle, so your baby has enough supply of milk in your absence.
In conclusion, breastfeeding is a crucial aspect of a newborn’s development, and mothers are encouraged to continue breastfeeding even when they are ill. Breastfeeding provides essential nutrients and antibodies that help protect babies from infections and illnesses. However, if a mother is unable to breastfeed due to an illness, she can consider combination feeding, which involves supplementing with formula while still breastfeeding as much as possible.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not a mother should continue breastfeeding when ill ultimately depends on several factors, such as the nature of the illness and the mother’s overall health. While it is generally recommended that mothers continue breastfeeding even when ill, it is important for them to take appropriate measures to prevent the spread of infection to their baby
Other Frequently Asked Questions
Laura is a trained primary teacher who takes a profound liking in interacting with and bringing out the best in children. She is also an ISSA certified pediatrician with an extensive practice of over 12 years. Laura comprehends the needs of infants and now compresses her expertise into writing thorough parenting guides to aid new parents.